The new demand for supply

This is a post from PRISM’s Social Army – regular briefings on topics aligned to our business or close to our hearts. Today’s entry is from Karen Vera, Content Lead at the Ford Asia-Pacific Content Factory.

Elections in the social media age have not been great. For many, the decisions on Brexit, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, and Trump feel like nightmares.

When Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States, many friends (and me as well) were already dreading all the “death of journalism” stories that were bound to come out.

But there’s a wealth of expert analysis already out there on that, so this won’t be another hand-wringing article about Trump and what it means for the press. How Facebook might have (definitely?) affected the outcome of an election took place before our eyes, so I thought I’d get a head start on a new worry: What is coming our way with the advent of on-demand, ‘bot-assisted lifestyle products?

At the US Amazon store, “Dash” dongles are now available for your most commonly ordered products; press the Dash button when you’re running low and you’ll get a new delivery of your fabric softener, ASAP.

This new level of convenience can be seen in other sectors, too. Some Silicon Valley outfits have already started exploring an “Uber For Gasoline” delivery system, so you can have your tank filled wherever you are. Why waste precious real estate for service stations?

It seems many app developers are exploring this same business model – offering super convenience to the time-poor masses. Tech journalist and one of the founders of RecodeKara Swisher, has called it “assisted living for millennials” in a post she wrote for the site Tech Portfolio. All this talent and investment for creating solutions, but all it really does is support an increasingly pampered lifestyle for the privileged. At the moment, it’s specifically for the privileged of San Francisco/Silicon Valley, but what happens there will ripple to the rest of us eventually.

Of course, innovation that make lives better should continue. I want my life to be easier, too. That’s initially what Facebook offered: an easy way to stay connected. They claim that’s still what they do, but to anyone who works in the content or media industries, it can seem that the site’s main activity is charging us to put our content in front of their users.

Don’t forget that users = us. Our appetite for getting what we want is making the algorithms (Facebook’s, Amazon’s, Uber’s) more sophisticated, constantly delivering on our demand.

So what effect will this on-demand culture mean in the long run?  Will we lose interest in anything that is not available immediately? Will it affect our capabilities to browse and discover? And what do we want to do with all that extra time that new technologies claim to give us?

In the end, this isn’t exactly a new worry. We already know the answers to these questions. This drive to offer consumers everything on-demand is already shaping reality. Our fed demands lead to more impulsive decisions and less factual decision making. So, Trump’s in charge?

Sorry. I guess this was another hand-wringing article after all.

Karen Vera 

November 1, 2017