The Humanity of an Artificially Intelligent Marketplace

Jeffrey Stewart discusses using Amazon Go – the AI-driven convenience store of the future – as the barometer for AI’s role in the marketplace and our daily lives

More than the technological leap required to achieve full integration in our day-to-day lives, the capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) have captured our imagination for the future.

We have discussed our excitement for greater efficiency, faster turnarounds, more detailed, data-driven strategies, and bolder consumer relations systems. But, we must remember the coin has two sides. We have also discussed our fears for debilitating job losses, unqualified talent pools, countless looming uncertainties, and the disappearance of industries on which workers, families, and local economies are reliant.

Nonetheless, individual decisions will not stop technological progress and exploitation of its potential. Executives across industries recognize the great potential of artificial intelligence and are drawing the framework for the inevitable automated system integration.

The history of automation is riddled with sweet victories and sour defeats. No doubt, Amazon’s fully artificially intelligent convenience store, Amazon Go, has taken a long stride forward for AI’s integration into the consumer ecosystem. Amazon’s efforts to streamline the consumer experience, resembling that of online shopping, are blurring the lines between brick-and-mortar shopping and the digital marketplace, marking the first established attempt at offline automation. Yet for every Amazon Go situation, there is a counter situation, which can stray from functional to greatly dysfunctional in less than 24 hours. The point? Despite our constant failure, we keep trying.

While Amazon’s automated Go store technology is nearing its public opening, we must wonder how rapidly we will see an automated transition. In which industries are the effects of automation most likely to be felt? And what will our world look like should an automated system become the norm for consumer interaction?

We live in a digitally determined ecosystem. Our data represents our routines, and artificial intelligence is an aid to those routines, not the interference of them.

Replacement of Routine Action

What did you do when you woke up this morning? Check your email, the news, or the weather? What about yesterday? Or the day before? In the face of adding variety as the spice of life, we are creatures of habit—comfortable with routine and inherently resistant to change. The human tendency for status quo is constantly being challenged by the ambition of innovators.

When technology challenges the status quo, the bold embrace it while the wary resist. In the history of automated operations, sweet victories are undertaken by bold early adopters who are both conscious of potential failure and hungry for breakthrough success. In a survey by The Boston Consulting Group and MIT Sloan Management Review, executives across industries revealed their stance on AI integration currently in place and for the future.

Executives looking to use AI to extend the length and breadth of their firm’s operations regard efficiency and returns as the biggest questions when deciding if it’s a prudent investment. If artificial intelligence is capable of reducing human error in routine operations and producing output at higher speeds, why would that opportunity not be utilized?

According to the survey, a significant portion of respondents identified artificial intelligence as a strategic opportunity. The report’s data reveals: “Most respondents believe that AI will benefit their organization, such as through new business or reduced costs; 84% believe Al will allow their organization to obtain or sustain a competitive advantage. Three in four managers think AI will allow them to move into new businesses.”

Unfortunately, the same potential for expansion and diversification of business operations that excites managers and executives is offset by uncertainty at the employee level.

We take for granted where we exist on the human timeline. Education has largely remained static, only using new technologies for learning classic concepts. In this environment, how do we, as a society, move forward? The adoption of automated systems has expanded the corporate understanding of consumer behavior and progressed the training of new hires. The potential for expansion and diversification is a representation of our world moving forward. Nevertheless, analysts do not anticipate artificial intelligence taking a firm grasp on the consumer ecosystem for some time.

AI’s Depth and Path of Adoption

Scholarly work on organizational theory and practice widely shows that corporate culture comes from the top down. In the BCG/MITS survey, clear paths to AI integration require distinct business cases in need of automated solutions and leaders in support of integrating artificially intelligent initiatives.

Corporate cultures that prioritize growing the potential for new hires talented in data collection, dissection, and recommendation are most likely to adopt AI capabilities to their operations. In the future, as the next wave of technological capabilities emerges, it will be these early adopters that grab hold of the opportunity, thus creating our future sweet victories. The advantage? Artificial intelligence is still in its infancy. We have not yet explored its vast potential across industries. Industry leaders in data collection and automation are rolling out their first attempts at automated integration. The barriers to adopting automated systems are shorter than they may appear.

We live in a digitally determined ecosystem. Our data represents our routines, and artificial intelligence is an aid to those routines, not the interference of them. Time will tell how the automation revolution will take shape, but being part of that movement makes today’s industry leaders the next great shapers of our society. If the true sign of intelligence is imagination, surely our capacity to harness our own technological inventions to progress our lives and match our vision for the world can happen.