My Desire: AI as the Great Connector

Informed decision living. I crave informed decisions.

My whole life, I have been utterly frustrated by data not being efficiently connected. Thankfully, AI is the new mobile. Big data and AI now offer the promise that complex comparisons can optimally be filtered to determine X factor improved decision making by all of us. "I know kung fu."

Informed decision living is becoming possible because those massive datacenters (the cloud) now house and interconnect untold amounts of data and their server backplanes can actually cross-analyze that data via hadoop clusters. I've seen Ebay's $2bil hadoop cluster. The compute power per square foot is unreal. They even built server racks that are 72U, 30U more density than the standard 42U racks. It basically is currently crunching data towards generating informed purchase decisions from all the historical consumer purchases ever made on Ebay from all their retail partners. Let's face it, Ebay is an ugly mess, but when they've finished an AI solution for searching and recommendations, it should be incredible. Discovery will blow our minds. You look for X but Ebay understands what you really want and makes informed recommendations based on massive volumes of previous user behavior correlations. 

Yeah, we are seeing a bit of this here and there but not at the levels that are in the pipeline. Amazon search is tapping into it somewhat but the factors determining their similar product recommendations are still very limited. I want a recommendation that educates me. Oh, you are looking for this, well this product is exponentially better and exponentially less expensive. You should buy this instead. Everyone else is.

The great benefit to this is improved competition. If AI can filter "best" recommendations for me and everyone, then theoretically, more purchasing decisions will funnel to those manufactures who care. Apple is a good example. They built a better mouse trap and half the mobile users worldwide lined up to buy. Isn't that just common sense?

When I spend my money, I want to know I bought the best and that I got it for the best price. Be it hiking boots, a pair of skis, a mountain bike, a new TV, a bottle of shampoo or some vitamin supplements. What makes something the best and at the best value on the planet? The money that can be saved annually by simply making informed decisions where more data and analysis has gone into the purchasing decision is staggering! My spending money is after tax - I want that to go as far as possible when making even the simplest of decision.

My wife and I are fanatical about online shopping and item comparison.  We always try to buy for the long term. To me, spending $1800 on an alloy mountain bike today when I know I want the full carbon eventually for $8000, is a waste of money. I try to take the time to thoroughly search for the carbon option I really want but find it for half the price. Since I didn't waste that $1800 on the temporary bike, the savings in actuality are even greater. 

But I hate how long and how difficult that search really takes. Big data and AI could instantly analyze the entire global inventory available and direct me to the best possible deals. But that still does not exist, although the hope is it will soon.

My wife and I want things to last and we want the very best we can afford. We enjoy quality and we know through experience that you can achieve a much higher standard of living with some informed effort.

This year we installed the Ebates browser plugin which offers you a cash rebate on most of your purchases from over 30,000 online stores. As you can see from the image below, we have now earned almost $1000 cash back on our purchases. Some people may not care about that but we do. We were making the purchases anyway, why not get an extra 5-20% cash back? 

We also make sure that we use a credit card that offers an additional cash back reward or points on all our purchases. This doubles up on the money we save. Our favorite credit card is the Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express. We've generated hundreds of thousands of points towards free hotel nights and the redemption values far exceed that of cash back cards or air mile cards.

Rebates plus credit card rewards partnered with informed "best purchase" AI decisions will be amazing.

For example, when you are appliance shopping, is it really that hard to find all the top retail sites' inventory of fridges, compare their costs and factor in sales, reviews, repair history and features and make a confident and informed decision on the very best product to buy? Apparently yes, it is still literally impossible to do.

When leasing a vehicle, why can't we simply input a few of the cars we are interested in and a report of the best deals factoring in down payments, money factors, dealer reviews, residual, carrying costs, total cost of ownership, optimum time of year to buy etc. automatically show us the most informed choice to make and make with confidence? This could save us thousands!

When planning a trip, why do I first need to choose the location I am interested in? Why can't amazing destinations based on user reviews and satisfaction, quality of the lodging, cost, trip length and personal interests such as beach vs. ski be shown to me and an overwhelming value drive my decision making? If you can get me into the Ritz on Maui for cheaper than Cabo - hands down I am going there.

If I want to get into real estate investing, why can't I have access to all the inventory in a metro where possible options have already been analyzed for potential appreciation, rental demand, property age, value of purchase price, taxes, HOA fees etc? Informed hedge funds have teams who develop algorithms for their own purchasing decisions but none of those have made it to the public. It is after all the largest purchase we all make. Whether for our primary residence or for investment, why is the search so difficult? Why do we leave such a massive decision in the hands of a realtor who really only cares about the commission?

Why can't I enter in a list (to the cloud) of any and all the items I am considering buying over the next year and AI starts to compute the best options for me? Possibly plan out when the best times of the year to make each of those purchases might be? Lease the car in September, buy the home in the winter, pick up the outdoor gear after Christmas, travel in these shoulder seasons. And here is your anticipated annual budget for all these things, what you will be getting and the money you will save.

Like isn't this just common sense already?

I hate overpaying. I hate buying something that wasn't the best. My friends recommendations are never as good as the research I do on my own. But wow does that take a lot of time.

Today I listened to this podcast from Goldman Sachs and I am thankful that they think AI is the apex of the future of tech. Yes fintech and healthtech and IOT are all great, but AI as the great connector holds the most promise for me. It will eliminate massive waste be that time, costs, wrong decisions etc. It should elevate the quality of living for most.

So when people talk about AI, don't think Skynet all the time. Think informed decisions and reduced waste. It's about time. 

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