Next Conservatism 7: Case Study — The 2nd Amendment in the Supermarket

Two shoppers pass in the aisle of a supermarket. One of them, with a permit, carries a concealed handgun. The other reads from a Smartphone. Only one of them is armed.

Even the 2nd Amendment’s most fervent supporters have to admit that the statistical likelihood of someone needing a gun in so normal a situation is too small to measure. And, as a deterrent the value of a concealed weapon can’t be proven. If the weapon is applied, given the recent legalization of concealed carry by people with no training at all, an accident is as likely as someone stopping a crime or saving a life.

For both shoppers however, the actual situation always requires them to make decisions about purchases. That’s why they’re in the store. They can decide any way they like along a spectrum from numb trance to attentively rational, but they’ll both end up at the registers with their choices. The Smartphone user will by then have been able to take advantage of her technology to understand her purchases in light of her budget, medical questions, political leanings, carbon footprint, even her genetics. The gun owner will not have used her weapon at all.

How the Internet of Things Creates a Power Shift

For their actual situation, the gun owner isn’t armed. The Smartphone owner is. It’s likely that no matter how many times the armed person visits that store, they won’t use the weapon as it is intended to be used. But it’s certain that a Smartphone carrier can use the technology in every aisle. Just as certain, it will pay off for such shoppers as the information that’s available for them to use in that setting changes, and as the relationship between buyer and seller changes too.

In any market this signals a power shift. Until now the buyer-seller engagement was largely based on branding, ads, image and inductions. At its best the relationship was underpinned by fact. At its worst, the seller’s goal was to deceive and even to addict a buyer, to disable them into a state of dependency exemplified by the seller-buyer marriage in the tobacco industry. Buyer loyalties for brands and products were to a large degree guesses based on marketing or hearsay or reputation or inapplicable prior experience: Dad bought Fords, so you buy one.

The emerging Internet of Things (IoT) creates an information ecosystem available wherever a user happens to be. It brings speed and depth that replaces guessing with data in situ in a buying decision.

· Information about the company or producer

· Dynamic and comparative pricing

· Vast pooled user feedback

· Customized product and performance specifications, etc.

· Ties ins and co-marketing so if you buy one brand another one gives you a deal

· Pricing premiums for loyalty and aggregated purchases

· Diet, exercise, genetic and medical matching

Purchase by purchase, the mindset of branding based on assumptions is crumbling. Now caveat emptor fails and the advantage shifts to the side of the wary buyer who questions and tests. Even for big purchases like a car, such tests can now be performed in detail with instant speed. That power shifts rational self-interest to work for you.

From your own side, you can create a precise match between the product, whether it’s an apple or an Apple, and your needs, goals, even your genes. You can read produce and know where it came from and when. You can formulate a diet based on your genotype, compare it with the data from similar subjects, and buy for your own good instead of eating assumptions and frustrating yourself with bad choices. The seller who declines to inform you loses your business.

Armed in the Aisle

Augmented marketing makes a price tag immersive, informative, and personal for you. The shift is simple and profound. You aren’t any longer at the mercy of a guess. The sellers who try to addict or deceive risk instant bad publicity, while those who treat you well gain a market advantage. The IoT gives you a watchdog, a guardian that knows and cares for no one but you. It knows your health data, your financial goals, etc. It talks with seller-side devices on your behalf. Something as simple as a QR code on a package can open vast information resources and customize them for you as you stand in the dairy section deciding between brands of cheese.

You can program robotic intelligences to communicate among themselves and to remember for you. A seller taking advantage of someone in your network is taking advantage of everyone in your network. Their whole brand is on the line. The nature of the engagement changes from simplistic assumptions to informed vigilance. You, not they, drive and control the discussion.

The Right to Fact

This is quiet, seismic, and irreversible, but it isn’t free from threats. Caveat emptor as a business model has always proven irresistible for sellers, and as always they’ll do what they can to evolve it before they just let it go.

The Movement Conservative position here is the refined application of branding, ads, image and inductions, sometimes underpinned by fact, often not; and with unquestioning loyalty of the addicted voter as its end. They cultivate blindness. They resist legislation requiring useful data on food labels. They prevent epidemiological analysis of gun violence. They erect institutions to produce doubt about “sound science” at the expense of real science. They seek to come between a person and facts by legislating the seller’s right to engender unmerited trust, to withhold and distort, to obfuscate behind the idea of “commercial speech”, and to treat as “freedom” their right say what they want and blame you for hearing it. It’s a risky position for sellers to take as a generation of proficient operators grows up with conspicuous disinterest in their parents’ habits and with famous disloyalty to legacy brands. Trying to come between these smart buyers and their facts will compromise a whole brand at once. The companies that arm these consumers will win their loyalty. The liars will lose them as competent, informed consumers looking out for their own interests set a new standard for sellers.

Facts are weapons. The right to facts when and where you need them is the right to keep and bear arms.

Next Conservatism 8: Applied Self-Regulation is at