You Have a Personal Shopper…Everywhere

I’ve told the story of my inspiration for Gods Tomorrow in the thought of ordering a pizza. That thought experiment became pretty central to the Hathor universe. In fact, that was what inspired the idea for Services. Before that, it was all going to be a traditional video surveillance, boring old Big Brother stuff, but instead it became a prayer engine continuously responding to voice commands.

The simple thought of ordering a pizza impressed on me the importance of voice recognition in this universe. For the Services to know what kind of pizza you want, they would need to know more than just what kind of pizza you ordered last time (which is about as much as we get now). In a perfect world (and, yes, we’re working our way toward a perfect world), they would need to know what you ordered last time and how much liked it and why you ordered it. (After all, maybe you got it with no cheese because your date was lactose intolerant, but now that that’s over you’d never order it that way again!)

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s what I was talking about in the last post. These are the things Hathor wants to know about you: what choices have you made in the past, and how have you liked the results?

That’s the kind of information your friends have about you, and it’s what lets them say, “Hey, we tried out that new Italian place last night. Don’t go there!” It’s also what lets a buddy say, “Oh, hey, try the fajita nachos here. Just like Bennigans used to make, but spicier. You’ll love it!”

Your friends know those things by listening to you. If I want to write a world where I could say, “Give me a pizza” and count on the universe to give me a perfect pizza, then I need a surveillance system that listens to me the way friends do.

Incidentally, the main objection people often bring up to the end of privacy is a fear of advertising. I don’t understand that. I don’t like ads any more than the next guy, but what I dislike about them is having to sit through them…and that’s going to happen. No matter what, that’s a part of our culture.

The kind of data gathering I’m talking about here (and that the authors of the two books mentioned in my last post were talking about) doesn’t add new ads to your life — it makes the ads much, much more relevant. It could even get to the point (dare I say it) where the advertisement becomes a Service.

That’s what Personal Shopper is all about. You walk into a store and a Service that’s been eavesdropping on your every spoken word for the last decade speaks up and says, “Hey, why don’t you try something new?” And you know what? The Service is trying its hardest to sell you something you’re going to like.

Now, to make that all work…that takes some pretty phenomenal technology. And it’s technology I look forward to talking about…but it’ll have to wait for another post.

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