A.I. and E-Commerce: Antagonistic Insurgent or Amiable Instructor?

A.I. and E-Commerce: Antagonistic Insurgent or Amiable Instructor?

One of the most impactful films I ever watched was 1999’s The Iron Giant. It’s a beautiful movie that tells the story of Hogarth Hughes and his friendship with a giant robot from outer space.

Initially, you’d think this setup would lead to a standard action-packed, mechanical-melee fueled kids movie that you’d see and forget, but not so. The movie is a quieter, thoughtful meditation on what it means to exist, and whether or not we have the choice to be who we want to be.

Throughout the film, The Giant and Hogarth try to avoid a paranoid U.S. military officer, who thinks that The Giant is existentially dangerous and must be destroyed. This type of ignorant fear is crucial to the main theme of the movie, that “you are who you choose to be.” With all the bluster and fearmongering about A.I. taking over the world, I think we should take a step back and consider that perhaps A.I. can be what we want it to be. With the direction of digital marketing, it can potentially be one of the greatest aids to business in human history.

A.I. is already aiding immensely in the fields of efficiency and data crunching. There’s a lot to take away from the current applications that point to a brighter future. Blake Puryear, Head of Product at Engine E-Commerce, has some thoughts on the positive direction of A.I. and business.

“Right now, efficiency in A.I. marketing is where we are. You hand a dataset off to something that crunches it and spits that information back out. Google Analytics is doing that right now — providing information and offering some suggestions on what to do with that information. Where we can be in the near future is what gets me excited.”

Puryear foresees a future in which A.I. learns and digests your data, aiding in the complete optimization of your online experience.

“Having a conversation with something that knows all of your datasets and is deeply connected to your Facebook or business website that provides immediate feedback and advice would be huge. That is probably possible in the next five or ten years.”

In addition to efficiency, A.I. is currently aiding in data crunching and has been for some time. So A.I. is aiding tremendously right now — but what about that bright future? Well, Puryear thinks we are on the cusp of a gilded age for A.I. and business.

“Under the guise of optimization, I feel like we’re in the palm pilot phase of implementation. We’re headed to the iPad phase. Look at Amazon’s homepage and how it’s been A/B tested into oblivion. I guarantee they used some kind of A.I. to optimize that. A.I. is going to aid in producing the most functional sites possible.”

As for the doom and gloom of robots taking all our jobs, Puryear says: “You don’t have to worry about robots taking the art jobs away yet, because Amazon’s page is not the most beautiful, so the design aspect of site building will be there. But how exciting to have A.I. assist in functionality.”

Obviously, there are possibilities beyond what we can comprehend, but it’s fun to imagine the world Puryear dreams of, where a digital assistant aids you every step of the way. So before you go full Amish and adopt the ideals of a Luddite, consider that maybe your fears are unfounded. Perhaps A.I. and business can build a relationship as beautiful as Hogarth and The Iron Giant.

Written by
Tucker Partridge is a Sturgis Fellow in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas, where he studies English and Theatre. He currently serves as a Junior Copywriter at Engine E-Commerce. When not working, Tucker may be found performing improv comedy with the award-winning group, Rodeo Book Club, a staple of the Northwest Arkansas region. In his spare time, Tucker loves playing trivia, watching movies and television, and cheering on his beloved Arkansas Razorbacks, San Antonio Spurs, and Liverpool FC.