We give up a lot of information in return for modern convenience. Soon, it could also help predict the future.
A new patent application from Uber shows how much the company knows about us and how that information will inform the future of the business. Uber wants to patent technology that uses machine learning to predict user requests. It’ll use past behavior combined with apparent location-tracking information to respond to a request you haven’t even made yet.
In its coverage, Patent Drop gives this example: “If you order Sweetgreen to your office at noon every Wednesday for your company-wide staff meeting, this system would recommend a driver go to the restaurant early, ready to pick up your lunch.”
Notably, this is a patent application, not a product announcement, and there’s no way to know if Uber will actually do this. But artificial intelligence and machine learning are certainly having a moment; this is a logical move for a company whose existence relies on streamlining logistics. If Uber Eats can predict the dinner rush, those extra minutes before it actually starts are valuable from a logistics perspective. Matching future demand with current supply shaves time off deliveries. Plus, drivers can be scheduled more efficiently. Together, these moves have been proven to be better for Uber’s business.
We’ve gotten good at giving up a lot of personal information and data in return for convenience and entertainment. (See: Facebook’s business model; the entire online advertising industry.) A 2021 Swiss study found that people are more willing to give up personal data when they understand how and why it’s being used.
I have no data on hand to back this up but it feels like there are two groups of customers here: the ones who know but don’t care that companies like Uber know a ton about us, and those who might care, but don’t know just how much information tech companies collect. Things start to feel creepy when we stop paying careful attention to exactly what we’re sharing. The computer won’t forget.