Whenever I think of the predominant sound emerging from Amazon, I decide it has to be a snigger. First, the company intimated that it will soon be delivering your intellectual and household items by drone. Now it’s decided it’s become so familiar with your predilections that it’s going to ship the things you want to buy before you’ve even thought of buying them. Somewhere in the Bay Area, executives at Google ululated with envy. As TechCrunch reports, Amazon has filed a patent called “Method and System For Anticipatory Package Shipping.” The essence is this: Amazon believes it has a good idea which item of clothing, electronics or beauty product you will covet next. As with so many retailers, it has come to deduce from your buying patterns and other data what sort of person you are. Because we’re all, you know, one sort of person or another. So with this system, it intends to ship those products to the vast warehouse nearest you, in anticipation of your predictable behavior.
There’s even a suggestion in the patent that it might be more cost-effective to give the customer the product for free — even if they haven’t clicked to buy it — rather than ship it back where it came from. There will be those who will shiver at the prospect. They’ll imagine that they’ve sacrificed the last vestige of themselves to a highly secretive corporation. I prefer to think of this in terms of intimate human relationships. Isn’t the perfect lover the one who anticipates your needs, rather than reacts to them? Isn’t the perfect spouse the one who feels that you’re about to go into one of your profligate/depressed/frustrated/tetchy phases and creates an atmosphere around you that allays the worst effects? With this system, Amazon is laying down a challenge not merely to other retailers, but to those closest to you. In time, you may discover that a Washington corporation cares more about you than any human being you know. (Yes, it’s a pity it isn’t a Washington DC entity, but you can’t have everything.) Either the humans will then have to step up their performance, or you’ll have the perfect excuse to replace them. Just as Amazon might be sniggering, I fancy Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore Twombly might be smiling at the prospect of this new caring world. C/Net