Selling hamburgers with AI? McDonalds loves it

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McDonald’s acquisition of machine learning startup Dynamic Yield has been widely reported. Below are some extracts from Engadget, BBC News, and WIRED. 

The purchase for a reported $300 million was positioned as an effort to transition from mass marketing to mass personalization. But let there be no doubt: personalisation is, in this case, an aphorism for leading you to buy more food, and is mainly focused on optimizing McDonald’s own convenience.

“The first stop for the company’s AI is the drive-thru window to optimize menu displays at drive-thru windows. It might, for instance, promote the McFlurry or iced coffees on hot days, or suggest simpler items that are faster for employees to prepare if there’s a long line. Number-plate recognition would also allow it to offer customers at drive-throughs their usual food order. McDonald’s already uses geofencing around its stores to know when a mobile app customer is approaching and prepare their order accordingly. “

CEO Steve Easterbrook says: “We’re a really straightforward business. People only come to us if they want something to eat or something to drink,” says Steve Easterbrook (CEO McDonald). “We’re not in the business of using technology to try to change people’s lives.”

I am not so sure about that. Is McDonald’s becoming a technology company, applying AI to create both digital and food obesity…? Gerd already spotted this in his book “Technology vs. Humanity“:

“I define digital obesity as a mental and technological condition in which data, information, media, and general digital connectedness are being accumulated to such an extent that they are certain to have a negative effect on health, well-being, happiness, and life in general. The food industry actually calls this cravability or crave-ability. In the world of technology, marketers call it magic, stickiness, indispensability, or more benignly, user engagement. Craving and addiction—tech’s business model.”

 

Guest post by The Futures Agency content curator Petervan

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