Artificial intelligence and the McData-fueled future of capitalism – The Next Web

Ba da ba ba bah, McDonalds is capturing and storing biometric data on its customers without their knowledge or consent.

Per a report from The Register, McDonalds may be facing a class action lawsuit after an Illinois customer sued the mega-corporation for allegedly violating the states Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA):

(The plaintiff) sued McDonalds on behalf of himself and all other affected residents of Illinois. He claimed the fast-chow biz has broken BIPA by not obtaining written consent from its customers to collect and process their voice data.

Illinois has some of the stiffest biometric privacy laws in the US.

The lawsuit apparently stems from the companys use of automated drive-thru order takers in the form of chatbots.

Drive-thru customers were subjected to experimental natural language processing (NLP) AI in the state, in at least 10 of the companys locations. While its unclear exactly what AI systems McDonalds was using during the trial, it stands to reason the company would need to collect and store user data in order to train its AI.

Its hard to spot precedence in the wild, but theres no denying the world sits on the rocky precipice of embracing autonomy. This very well could be the legal catalyst that kicks off the big business V big government debate over how were going to go about transitioning to the next technology paradigm for capitalism.

From a purely business-oriented POV, McDonalds might not be in as bad a position as it appears. Whats an eight-figure lawsuit to company worth nearly $200 billion?

McDonalds has been dabbling in AI systems for years now, and theres an argument to be made that its poised to lead the charge when it comes to autonomous systems.

Autonomous robotics technology is nothing new. Today it powers automotive factories and the garment manufacturing industry.

And that makes it easy for us to imagine other industries, such as fast food, adopting a similar approach. Weve certainly heard a lot about burger-flipping robotsand the end of entry-level jobs for the past decade.

The majority of discourse on automation focuses on the one-for-one human costs of replacement. We often envision the debate being about whether the efficiency and corporate labor cost reductions are worth the potential mass displacement of human workers.

But what if we stop thinking about McDonalds like a greasy spoon and start thinking of it like Facebook, Google, or Microsoft.

The mainstream my recognize those as a social network, search giant, and OS developer respectively, but the truth of the matter is each one is an AI-first company. And with each passing year, AI endeavors make up a greater portion of their profits and net worth.

[Read: Global AI market predicted to reach nearly $1 trillion by 2028]

If McDonalds were to convert its global market position as a restaurateur into a horizontal entry into the technology sector interesting things could happen.

Strip away the what and how of where McDonalds exists as a global corporation and you can compare it to other big tech businesses. The most apt comparison might be Facebook.

McDonalds serves approximately one percent of the global population on a daily basis. Facebook, by contrast, reaches approximately 25% of the population. The biggest difference between the two, arguably, is that consumers typically have to pay to use the formers services while Facebook monetizes its customers.

Lets imagine a new McDonalds where the food no longer costs money. Like Facebook, all youd have to do is sign up and create a profile. Then, you could either go to a McDonalds location to pick up food or request a delivery.

Every few orders, however, you may be asked to do something simple such as filling out a series of questionnaires similar to those Im not a robot CAPTCHAs where you click on the traffic lights or bicycles.

You might be tasked with ordering via voice or handwriting, so the system can capture your biometric data.

Most of the time, however, youd just get free food for signing up and agreeing to McDonalds terms and conditions.

If this sounds a bit like socialism or communism, just remember: theres no such thing as a free lunch. Whatever data McDonalds could gather would be worth a fortune. Its already a globally recognized brand with more than 38,000 locations in 100 countries.

The reason why so many big tech companies have pivoted to AI is because its a trillionaires market. Anyone can gather data, but only a few organizations have the money and infrastructure to gather data from billions of people at a time and even fewer can ensure theyll keep coming back for more no matter what.

Theres nothing stopping McDonalds from using its burgers and nuggets to achieve the same goals as Facebook does with Candy Crush and conservative conspiracy theories.

The picture starts to come into focus when you consider that Facebook was founded in 2004 and its worth $280 billion while the first McDonalds opened in 1955 and its only worth $170 billion.

Could McDonalds turn feeding the hungry into the next big global data-gathering endeavor? What would you do for a free cheeseburger?

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Artificial intelligence and the McData-fueled future of capitalism - The Next Web

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