Futurists are usually right, at the wrong time. The thing about true innovation, is almost everything is an expansion on an older idea. It isn’t until time and technology converge at that perfect moment that great ideas are executed. Ideas tend to spark well before the execution due to lack or resources, namely practicality.
The big news this last week? Amazon buys Whole Foods.
Many in the press are thinking that this is a disruptive move. If you ask me, I’d say it’s more evolutionary than revolutionary.
A few years ago, I was doing some foresight consulting for a large brick-and-mortar retailer, who, at the time was (and probably still is) worried about Amazon. In fact, every brick-and-mortar retailer was and likely still is, worried about Amazon, although I doubt Whole Foods was one of those.
The Best Bots Do The Work For You
Lately, chat bots have been all the rage – no matter what services you provide, chances are that you have already launched, or are in the process of, launching a bot based version of your service. Everyone is doing it – companies from the largest tech and commerce retailers like Google and Amazon already have fairly advanced audio agents (Google Assistant and Amazon Echo), and there are tons of non-audio agents, coming from both Facebook and many much smaller companies. According to Chatbots.org, there are over 1200 chatbots out there on the internet. We’ve got everything from virtual friends to money management or help for immigrants to complete their visas.
Apple Finally Opens Siri Up (aka Apple Plays Catch-Up) and Microsoft Buys LinkedIn
Big news this week in the tech world as Microsoft gobbles up “business network” LinkedIn for $26B in cash, and Apple holds its big World Wide Developers Conference. Let’s start with Apple.
Maybe Google has been a fast follower all along?
I look forward every year to the new stuff coming out of Google’s, Apple’s and Facebook’s conferences with a lot of interest as they are supposed to represent new, cutting edge innovation that these companies should be known for. That all of these companies are leaders and not fast followers, companies who simply allow others to break new ground, then stepping in and improving things.
The Future Of Retail: Immediate, Exact, Temporary
I was sitting on my deck the other day, reading an article on my iPad when I glanced over at my lawn. Hmm, I thought to myself. That needs cutting. So I thought – what are my options:
- Get out my lawnmower and cut the grass. Would probably do me a lot of good physically, get me out from behind a screen, breathe some fresh air, get some exercise, and since I have a push mower and a pretty small lawn, it wouldn’t take too long
- Call up a service on my iPad to send someone to cut my lawn. Easy, fast and done. I don’t need a lawnmower, I’ll just have someone bring theirs. But then I don’t get the benefits of mowing my lawn: the fresh air, the cost savings, etc.
What if I don’t have a lawnmower? I’ll have to order one from Amazon, wait for it to show up, assemble it. Such a hassle. In the future, I support that I’ll have a 3D printer and I can 3D print a lawnmower. But that will take a long time and material, then when I’m done with it, it will sit there gathering dust until I need to use it again. That does not sound like the future of retail. At least in the Star Trek universe you could recycle it back into a block of matter that can be converted into something else. Like a chicken salad sandwich and coffee.
Will Bots Make It Easier or Harder to Be Visible?
Viv, a new audio AI chat bot from the founders of Siri made its debut yesterday at Disrupt NY. While the audio recognition was interesting, it wasn’t the most interesting piece of it (Nuance provides the audio recognition) – Viv literally automatically generates code in order to provide the response that the user is looking for. The AI writes its own code. In the example they gave, Viv took about 10 milliseconds to write a 44 step program in order to respond to a query. Conceivably, the code itself, once written by Viv, is reusable, making the code development and execution even faster. If I ask Viv to book me a car to the airport, it can reach out and connect to any myriad of services in order to provide the best possible solution to my question.
The rise of the Smart (and not so smart) Chat Bots.
I’ve talked at length before about the Seamless World, wherein some not too distant future, big data, the internet of things, predictive analytics and automation will all come together to create a world without interfaces, where everything we need to happen in our lives simply happens, without our ongoing involvement. We go from fighting with our technology to get it to do what we want, to it finally relieving us of our day-to-day simple burdens and finally allowing technology to be an aide and guide to humankind, instead of enslaving us.
Will Big Data Free Us Or Enslave Us?
In two of the top stories this week, we heard about the “dating apocalypse” which apps like Tinder have facilitated, and the seemingly relentless data driven life of the typical white collar worker (and by the description they do sound more like workers than employees to most) at Amazon. We heard about how cutthroat things are at Amazon, how there is no such thing as a work/life balance (if you want a life you can’t work there) and that decisions are driven by data. Data on top of data on top of metadata – their lives are driven by meeting certain metrics and no one cares if they have lives or not.