“Our goal is to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return.” This is the vision of OpenAi. Over the weekend this vision seems to have cracked and the winner is the very-much-for-profit Microsoft which has scored most of the top management of OpenAI.

Google had a code of conduct that said “Don’t be evil” which was super cool and simple. Corporate myth is that an engineer named Amit Patel came up with it in the context of google signing a deal with Washington Post – he wanted to ensure that their search results remained untainted. I switched my searches from AltaVista to Google sometime in early 2000 I think – enticed by the minimalist user interface, and nudges from Bharat Patil my colleague at Infosys. Those days you actually needed skills like where to put quotes or + to get accurate results from google and I was proud of being good at it.

While I use google when I want to know where to watch a movie or compare the prices of laptops, if I want to drill deep on a topic I now jump on to ChatGPT. Google of course has its own alternative – Bard, which is still an experimental app. To give you an idea of how much search engine traffic is worth Google pays around $20 billion every year to Apple just to have their search engine as the default on Safari. Google is around 20x bigger than Microsoft in the search space, revenue-wise.

So you now you sort of see how big the stakes were for Microsoft to jump on the AI bandwagon, and do a “hire-acquisition” of the key team. That way they’d get the golden goose and do away with all this mumbo jumbo about not making a financial return on its amazing eggs. Not sure what happened to that job offer, but Sam Altman is currently a no-show and going back to OpenAI. A recruitment head’s nightmare!

Companies can’t have morals, but people do! So we can continue to have hopes for Sam.

How much is that nicer hotel round the corner?

In 1998 clutching our Lonely Planet, my husband and I decided to take our first ever car for a long drive – from Bangalore to Kochi. We arrived in Kochi in the pouring rain and checked into the first hotel that had a room and that was in the book. It was pretty awful. The next day we realised that there were much cosier ones and proceeded to negotiate a room. The next day another one and so on. When online search happened it removed information asymmetry and put power in the hands of the consumer. For a while. Then corporates caught up and fancy algorithms once more made information opaque.

AI has the opportunity to once again change the rules of information asymmetry. But this time round the snippets of information are finer, processing is faster, and the sources include machines!

AI shifts the power of information

We’ve been watching Young Sheldon as a family – the backstory of genius Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory. Sheldon never forgets anything and that leads to some awkward situations. The world we’re now moving to is the same – just as Facebook throws up “memories” that you have completely forgotten, brands will have access to your thinking, action and decisions from your entire life. You may forget but the machines won’t. If you think being stalked by brands online is bad, just imagine when objects start cross-selling! Your fridge will talk to your toilet and they may “suggest” a better diet. The devices could also rat on you to your insurance company if you choose not to accept their recommendation. Imagine the guilt-tripping your appliances could do!

Marketer’s gold mine, legal tangle, consumer power, billionaire rule or government ownership? In the short term it’s going to be a land grab.

Is AI the next big thing in marketing?

Are you bogged down by a lack of information about your customers or market?
Are you struggling to draw insights from the huge trove of data you have?
Certainly AI will help with this.

On the other hand, is your product portfolio too complex for consumers to understand? AI will help them figure it out. And once AI sifts through all the ingredients and manufacturing process and sustainability data, customers may realize that Unilever mayonnaise is as good as store brand, despite the mission statements. Or AI might be able to predict that an Indigo flight with 6 passengers is unlikely to be commercially viable and hence very likely to get cancelled. Parents may be able to see which educational institutions led to the most in demand professionals through LinkedIn.

Either way it is going to transform they way we interact with businesses. And the winners are going to be the next big billionaires! With the current developments, the losers are also going to be billionaires.

Don’t be evil, will ya?

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