AI is far more leveraged when the customer is the employer.

Seems to me that’s your main point here. It’s also a point marketers and those selling Big Data and AI to them mostly fail to get, because they’re accustomed to thinking of customers as “targets” they “acquire,” “manage,” “control” and “lock in” as if they were slaves or cattle.

We may not always know what we want, but we do always want to be in control of our lives, and to maximize our agency in the world. AI can help us do that far better than it can help marketers guessing at us on behalf of corporate clients — and failing 99.x% of the time.

They fail for two reasons that no amount of AI on the sell side can fix. One is that most of the time we’re not shopping. We’re just living our lives, most of which exist offline. The other is that reading the tea leaves of scattered personal data is a lousy way to understand people, especially when they have no desire to have those leavings read, especially by machines interested only in making uninvited sales pitches.

When the makers of AI discover how much more leverage can be found in actual customer intentions than in the inferences of unwanted surveillance, then a true Intention Economy will emerge. Until then, we’ll all continue standing under the Niagara of sewage that advertising became after its hunger for Big Data turned it into the junk mail business.

Written by

Author of The Intention Economy, co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, Fellow of CITS at UCSB, alumnus Fellow of the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard.

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