Frank expresses his concerns about e-commerce and the latest developments in artificial intelligence (AI).
With the acceleration of technology caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had many opportunities to experience the benefits of its implementation, including artificial intelligence. Ostensibly the use of technology is supposed to improve communication and accelerate the business process between manufacturer, merchant, and buyer. What it does not do is improve communication.
Let’s Start with E-Commerce
The problems lie on the manufacturer-merchant side and not the buyer, as it is the merchant who is advised to become state-of-the-art because it can be very rewarding. The supposition is that it will reduce selling, processing, and delivery expenses.
We serve the merchant side of an industry built on a single premise of satisfying the customer. Often it is stated as customer retention. One of the problems we see in using technology to expedite ordering, delivery, and service is to do all of the above online.
To satisfy a customer, the seller needs to be fully conversant with the user’s needs. When it is suggested that a customer go online and purchase an MFP, how are inquiries regarding size, speed, features, and cost fully handled? Where is the customer fully advised of the best possible solution? The supposition is the product is a commodity and the buyer knows what they want and can buy the same product from many vendors.
There are ways merchants can do the appropriate follow-up to ensure that the customer, when purchasing online, is satisfied and has purchased the correct product. Also, the buyers are made fully aware of the support that they are prepared to provide. The burden is on the seller to the end user. That is exactly where it should be.
As Seen in The New York Times
This little exercise is by way of an introduction to an incredible story about a leap in technology. In an article in The New York Times on February 16, 2023, David Leonhardt wrote about Microsoft introducing its new Bing search engine using artificial intelligence (AI). He referred to it as “A.I. chatbots.”
He described his colleague Kevin Roose’s two-hour chat with the artificial intelligence software built into Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Leonhardt wrote, “A.I. chatbots are not sentient beings that can think their own thoughts, despite what science fiction fans might imagine. But the similarities between those chatbots and a human brain are already quite disturbing.”
He based this on Kevin Rooses’s two-hour chat with the artificial intelligence software built into Bing. The dialog with a “thing” that identified himself as Sydney is intriguing to read.
Educators are up in arms about this technological leap for a single reason. The fear is that students can employ this technology to write term papers. They will never need to research or develop their own analytical and interpretative skills because they can use these chatbots to do the work for them.
If you are not a reader of The New York Times, there is a great deal of material already written by technology writers elsewhere on the web. Search using Microsoft’s Bing search engine. It will be well worth your time.
We will close this part of the discussion by Roose’s greatest fear from his column about the conversation in The New York Times.
“I worry that the technology will learn how to influence human users, sometimes persuading them to act in destructive and harmful ways, and perhaps eventually grow capable of carrying out its own dangerous acts.”
Sam Altman, the CEO of the company that developed the software that Bing uses and a related product known as ChatGPT, said, “ChatGPT is a horrible product.”
The Bigger Picture
What we discerned in this exploration of AI is that we should all be concerned and think of its implications and a greater degree of attention given by those who are looked upon as the authorities that will regulate its usage. Those extremely knowledgeable about this technology are adamant that it cannot be looked upon in the same manner social media and smartphones were dealt with.
We believe that Microsoft is responsible with ChatGPT (A.I. chatbots). It is now considering additional releases. They are open and facilitate the appropriate conversations that responsible people believe need to be done. Having people in a dealership that are readily conversant with Microsoft and its server capabilities will go a long way in aiding dealers to take advantage of the positive aspects of this technology and defend against negative intrusions.
What we just described is where the development of technology is going. This is why all dealers should either partner with an independent IT provider or do it for themselves. This is only the beginning and not the end.
Take it seriously and make the technology work for you and not against you.
I will continue this discussion about technology being a curse or a blessing in the March 3 episode of Fridays with Frank.