Archives for September 2016

September 24, 2016Your thoughts?

What does the future look like when machines take over?

The hope is that they are ethical, and that they follow Asimov's laws of robotics and are kind to humans. Hope aside, let's think about what might be the real implication of all humanity allowing machines and artificial intelligence take over all rote and repetitive menial tasks.

The purpose of one's life on earth—take it for what it's worth—is the survival of the species. But there's a catch to this. It's the survival of the species that is best suited to survive. Is it a cybernetic species, or is it a sentient artificially intelligent species? Is it super-intelligence?

There's been a long drawn debate around direct correlation between intelligence and morality. One school of thought has maintained that the higher the intelligence, the higher the moral values of the entity possessing the intelligence. However, not only has US researcher Howard Gardner suggested that correlation between intelligence and morality is highly unlikely, but you can totally assume machines not coming anywhere close to being moral with the increase in intelligence, real or artificial.

You can totally assume Artificial Intelligence not coming anywhere close to being moral. Click To Tweet

While everybody is thinking AI would mean self driving cars eventually, we may still be surprised how soon abilities assumed by AI will tremendously outperform any human. How long do you think it will take until translation by machines will be better than anything humans can do? Same with Math.

Think about it. Look at the scale of progress around us. Most of scientific and technical progress that we have made as a species is just in last 200 years or so, in 3.8 Billion years of life on earth, and about 2.5 million years of humanity.

As Nick Bostrom says in his book, it might only take less than a month for AI to go from Village-Idiot-level General Intelligence (AGI) to Einstein-Level-and-Beyond Super Intelligence (ASI).

PPTExponentialGrowthof Computing

What do you think humans will be able to call their own?

Picture this. You're having salad, and a friend asks how the salad is. You answer "Not bad". The meaning of something being not bad in that context means so many things at the same time. It means good, okay, bearable, fine, I'm English (Queen's English) and many things in between. The day when AI picks up the tab on your salad, you're done.

Big time.

And here, done means 'finished' not completed. ■

September 22, 2016Your thoughts?

Economics and Design

[Originally published under the title Benefits of Better Design/Hindu BusinessLine]

When User Acquisition Stops, Retention happens through ease and consistency of Experience. Click To Tweet

As economies of scale allow for higher quantities, prices reduce. As demand increases, prices increase. The equilibrium is a point where supply and demand curves intersect and an acceptance to sell at a certain price point emerges.

Price Setting for Attention and LoyaltyHowever, in reality, many companies are (and yearn to be) price-setters — targeting in on people who will pay more for products having superior qualities.

And what is the price we’re asking here?

Attention. And loyalty.

To retain users, you need reliability. Don’t have Asparagus in stock one day, fine. They’ll go get it from your competition. You’ll get screwed over if you don’t have it often.

What if you’re a marketplace? You clearly don’t have control over the behavior of the merchants and their inventories. You’ll build systems for quality control, and separate the wheat from the chaff. That’s basic hygiene, every one of your competitors will do that. Remember that you’re a medium, a channel, a means. Make it easy. Make it consistent. Make it the first choice. Make it indispensable, but not because of the goods your merchants carry. But because it feels and works like the most natural way to get to those goods. Predictable and a source for subconscious relief. You can’t go wrong with Mac and Cheese. That familiarity, that’s key. Busy office goers might not chow down chicken wings for lunch, but may get a Soylent shake and some granola bar instead. That’s functional. Convenient.

Look at whatever users have got today — they have a favorite grocery app, a soon-to-be-favorite e-commerce app, perhaps another get-a-helping-hand app. Sometimes they might have two of a kind on their devices because they want to fill the gap created by one with the another. But one of them is what they open first — that one clearly won the battle of retention, of attention and loyalty.

With better design, users will be willing to pay more. More attention. More loyalty.

Snappy, non-fussy, checkout. ■