No humans allowed!
Ridiculous? Well, it’s exactly what is happening, right now, in the heart of Singapore’s Central Business District.
Singtel’s latest innovation – Unboxed – is Singapore’s first unmanned 24-hour phone sales store.
OK. So you’ve probably already heard about staffless stores. Old hat. But wait. Unboxed goes that one step further.
Upon entry, you are greeted by a roving Live Bot – a tablet on wheels – which establishes a livestream chat between you and a remote member of Singtel’s customer service team.
The Bot uses facial recognition to identify if you are an existing Singtel customer, allowing for more personalised assistance. You can sign up for a mobile plan, buy a phone or make bill payments. There’s even a kiosk available for purchasing accessories.
And you can do all this without anyone else being physically present.
Now, I’m sure if you are young – or young at heart – you must be thinking “What a great idea!” I can already hear the “Hoorays!” and “No more torturously long phone calls with customer service officers!”
However, consider this…
What if eventually all your favourite stores were staffed by bots? What if every transaction was recorded for “quality control and training purposes”?
What if you wanted to buy something requiring discretion? Such as a medical prescription for a sensitive condition such as head lice or genital warts? Would a bot take a look, verify your symptoms and issue your prescription? Would you then rate the bot on its performance? And would you want someone poring over your transaction to improve bot service?
And what of the data collected by the bot? What if a bot helped measure you for your bra size? Or Y-fronts for a bloke? Then sent your vital statistics – or even a video – back to a database somewhere?
What if you bought a book on how to improve your sex life? Do you really want that info available to marketers? What would happen the next time you entered the store? Would you be presented with a menu of Kama Sutra books to select from? Or what if you told the bot the book was for a friend – and had it gift-wrapped and sent out. How would your friend feel about having their name associated with such a purchase?
Or what if you have a mental illness? Every store you enter frames your experience in that context. You enter a furniture store, the bot cross-references your face with the medical database and knows you take lithium. So it offers you the triple soft mattress, guaranteed to give bipolar insomniacs a great night’s sleep.
Perhaps you had a bad day once and gave a bot a piece of your mind or got unruly with another customer. You’re now forever tagged as a problem client. Every time you enter a new shop, you trigger a store alert and a team of security bots follow you around as you shop.
What if you think you’re pregnant? You go to the pharmacist and a bot issues you with a pregnancy test. A recruitment agency shopping for candidates for a great job you want eliminates prospects – including you – based on the expectation you want to have a family. Or even the number of migraine pills you consume.
Do you really want someone, somewhere, to use this data to limit your choices and movement? To deny you the opportunities afforded to others? Or even to blackmail you?
What do you think? Do you really want your private information being kept by big business? I’m keen to know. Feel free to leave a comment below or send me a message.
#privacy #science #technology