The great thing about corporate giants is that they are such amazing business innovators. For example, in the category of “wheel-spinning” innovation — i.e., trying to change a corporation’s course without actually changing anything — it’s hard to top McDonald’s. For several years, the fast-food chain has been losing customers to younger chains with healthier, more-stylish offerings. So, CEO Steve Easterbrook has tried to recoup the losses with PR tricks, such as calling the menu “healthy” and “fresh.” But a McNugget and fries are still what they are, so people have not bitten the PR bait.
Now, though — Eureka! — he’s hit on an innovation that’ll surely cause hungry eaters to flock to the Golden Arches: artificial intelligence. Yes, exclaimed Steve-the-Innovator, consumers need a robotic order-taker to advise them on what to order — all based on AI’s ability to digest unlimited data about the weather, traffic, time of day and what other people are ordering. “Decision technology” it’s called, and the CEO spent 300 million McDollars to buy these so-called thinking machines, which the maker claims will provide “the rapid and scalable creation of highly targeted digital interactions.” Now, what could be more inviting than that?
Easterbrook adds excitedly that his innovative deployment of this artificial intelligence network will provide an “even more personalized customer experience.” Sure, Steve, nothing like more computers to add a warm, personal touch to make a meal more appealing.
Far from helping customers, McDonald’s snazzy new AI ordering system will be helping the corporation by silently compiling personal information on you, ranging from your “movement patterns” to your license plate number. As Easterbrook admits, McDonald’s will use the technology to “make the most” of the data collected.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.