Liat Clark, The Everywhere Store: Amazon’s AI-powered masterplan to be the world’s biggest company – Wired – August 4 2017
In June, it bought supermarket chain Whole Foods, with its 400-plus retail sites, for $13.7 billion.
AI has long been at the core of Amazon’s business. “A lot of the value we’re getting from machine learning is actually happening beneath the surface,” Bezos said at the Internet Association’s annual gala in May. “It is things such as improved search results, improved product recommendations, improved forecasting for inventory management and hundreds of other things.”
With the introduction of Alexa in November 2014, Amazon has entered what Bezos calls AI’s “golden age”. Alexa is the public face of Amazon’s AI efforts; the facilitator that will help customers navigate – and consume – Amazon’s empire.
Through the WI Lens
This article is an essential read in two respects. (1) It helps debunk the myth that Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods has to do with wellness. Not much – even if it makes organic food cheaper. It is rather a way to introduce Alexa (Amazon’s virtual voice assistant) in Whole Foods’ 400 plus retail sites where it is now sold alongside organic kale and responsibly farmed salmon. (2) It helps explain how Amazon is entering the “golden age” of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that will revolutionize retail and hospitality to an unprecedented degree. Thanks to Alexa and the power of machine learning, Amazon will soon be able to sell customers whatever they want, wherever they are, whenever they need it. In addition, it will connect Alexa to Amazon’s vast logistics and retail empire.
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
“Scientific evidence recently emerged that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Covid-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that we breathe out when we respire, called aerosols.”
“Economic wellbeing is part of the story, but it is also about finding less stressful lifestyles, in which healthy diet figures as a meaningful measure of success.”
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”
“All roads lead to a wellbeing anchor, whether that be economic/financial, physical, mental or emotional: all contribute to a progressive and inclusive cosmopolitan world. The answer should not be a choice of one or the other but of a joined up and compassionate solution for society, business and individuals.”
“The paradox is that we continue to do this in spite of recognising that striving to become ever-more productive is an intrinsically unhealthy behaviour, leading to stress and too often, a sense of failure.”
“The same broad-sweeping structural racism that enables police brutality against black Americans is also responsible for higher mortality among black Americans with Covid-19,” Maimuna Majumder, a Harvard epidemiologist working on the Covid-19 response, tells Vox.
The take-out from this? Wellbeing cannot exist at a more elevated level without our basic needs being met.