When Robots go fishing for humans
A few months ago, the battery on my old faithful camera, Canon Rebel DSLR (D350) died. My Rebel shoots only 8 megapixel images as compared to the 12 megapixels on my iPhone, and it doesn’t do video. Besides as my iPhone is on me all the time, my Rebel hadn’t really been seeing too much action in recent times. So I reluctantly began to consider retiring the old warrior.
The thing was that apart from my Rebel, I had also invested in a couple of lenses and it seemed sad to let all that go to waste. But an original Canon replacement battery cost quite a bit. I checked the substitutes but they either had no reviews on Amazon, or the reviews weren’t too good. So I let it be, and put the DSLR into cold storage. And that should have been it.
What I didn’t realize was big brother, Bezos, was watching my every move. Or rather his digital incarnation, in the form of an Amazon robot.
The robot silently noted my interest in the camera battery, and bided its time. Months later, an innocuous offer from Amazon showed up in my inbox. A flat 15% off on Amazon Gift Cards. Well, I wasn’t really thinking of buying anything. But out of curiousity, I idly browsed through the rest of the mail.
And that’s when it popped up - a reminder of the substitute battery for my Rebel that I had been checking out all those months ago. However there still weren’t any reviews about it on Amazon India, and I began to lose interest. I didn’t really need another camera and an 8 megapixel one at that. In fact, I needed to reduce the already considerable electronic clutter at home.
But I had reckoned without the subtle persuasive skills of Amazon robot. It conveniently linked me up to the US Amazon site where the battery had received decent reviews. (Naturally, all done by an army of unpaid human drones recruited by Bezos to help build the world’s biggest store.)
I was now definitely interested. The robot deftly moved in to close the deal, the clincher being the gift card that knocked ₹225 off the ₹1500 ($22) price.
Suddenly it seemed worth a shot. To my amateur eye, the pictures shot on the Rebel and the iPhone seemed more or less the same on my screen. But the Rebel could do a lot of stuff that my iPhone 6S+ struggled with, optical zooming being a simple example.
I clicked on the checkout button.
Meanwhile somewhere in the digital world, the robot who had been dangling a bait before a human for a couple of months, was smiling as it reeled in its catch.