NEXT16: Nell Watson – why you should hire a bot as your consiglieri

We make 35,000 decisions at day. Can bots take away the trivial ones, making our lives better and more fulfilling? Nell Watson thinks so.

Warning: Liveblogging. Prone to error, inaccuracy and horrible abuses of grammar and syntax. Post will be improved over the next 24 hours

Nell Watson, Singularity University

She hates ads. They’re ugly. They distract from what you’re trying to find. And they treat you like an idiot. 25% of Germans have installed an ad blocker. And it’s growing fast. This is a trend that’s rapidly becoming a reality. And it’s not just “I don’t want to look at ads”, it’s “save my data” or “save my battery life”.

Companies like WIRED are rebelling. They highlight the social contract between seeing ads and getting content. But when companies start blocking ad blockers then others block the ad block blockers. It’s a war that no-one will win. Ad fraud is growing. And trust is collapsing. This doesn’t seem sustainable or happy.

Nell was abroad, and at a loose end. And she was served an ad that told her that a concert was happening that night in her neighbourhood – and she wanted to se it. Relevance matters. Signal versus noise matters. Conversations are a great way of transmitting signal.

Conversations and choice

Some people swear by the Cluetrain Manifesto. Some swear at it. But it maintains that markets are conversations. Whomever is closest to the consumer whispers in their ear – and controls the conversation. For a long time that was Google or Facebook. On mobile, it’s different. WeChat helps you get things done. There’s a scramble to bring out bots, chat bots and messaging systems. And the back ends to support it. Kik and Salesforce Einstein are platforms for doing this.

There’s a paradox of choice. Choice is welcome – until it becomes over-whelming. Most humans make 35,000 choices a day. Many of them are trivial. Many aren’t. We’re approaching a time when many of the trivial decision will be made for us. Anticipatory design charges experiences people can enjoy without making choices. No thinking – like Nest thermostats or Spotify playlists.

Make the customer the hero of the story
–Ann Handley

We can make educated guesses about what people will enjoy -and most of the time we’ll be right, if machines aid us. The way we look at something, how we react physiologically, tells machines what we really like. Products, art and even taste – it works for all of them. Knorr is working on ways of mapping people’s sense of taste.

Consigliere commerce

Allo from Google is an anticipatory design system. It’s consigliere commerce. The consigliere is equal to the big boss. He makes decisions for them. And that’s what machines will start doing. We’ll send them out to find the best solutions to spend our time and resources. And that might mean you’re selling to machines not people. You need metadata around your products. Parity products like bottled water and candles will consolidate. Brands will mean less to machines than humans. It’s a commerce shift we haven’t seen in 0 years. Last time it was Malcom Maclean creating shipping containers. It enabled the globalised world, with international trade. We are about to see something on a similar scale.

Amazon is making it easier to buy things. It’s getting its warehouses closer to people, using vans, panes and drones to deliver – and using the Echo to allow people to order. Walmart is experimenting with autonomous shopping carts. Your consigliere and its minions will do your future shopping.

Trading will change. Every single sector will change. And we can boycott through our consiglieri. We can preferentially trade with people we want to. You won’t even have an opportunity to trade with people you don’t want to. Bots will see more of us then our friends do. They’ll see the bits we hide. If you can analyse people, you can create stratification.

Deep learning chips are small and powerful. We can deploy them almost anywhere. Barbie is now connected. Comfort robots will watch over our elderly.

There’s a new form of machine learning emerging called Turing Learning. They learn by pretending, just as children do.

We can’t hide, because they can see all. That’s going to be OK.

Helping machines to help us

CAPTOLOGY – computer aided human persuasion. It helps us get better. Google Goals is one example. Crystal understands your personality – and how to talk to you. Responsible helps you write e-mails that people are likely to accept.

SimSensei can analyse your behaviour and reactions. Could we build an AI counsellor? One of the biggest scourges of our society is loneliness. Can machines guide us towards better.more connected lives? Well, yes, but we don’t want a smart Clippy. We need to build trust with machines. Machines can have biases. There are bots that call you up, and lie to you in recorded human voices about their human nature. An intelligent machine will make mistakes. So, we’ll need bot curators to guide and help the machines. Indeed, sometimes our consiglieri will be a human. We one’t know the difference.

OpenEth is a project to make ethics computable. We teach children about right and wrong through nursery rhymes and fairy tales. We need to teach machines about ethics, too. That’s how we’ll get to a true partnership with our consiglieri’s.