January 21, 2014

Amazon patents “anticipatory shipping” / mind-reading technology


This little girl doesn't know that a shipment of fairy dust is already boxed, labeled, and waiting in a warehouse in her county with her name on it.

This little girl can’t remember what she was looking for online an hour ago, but a shipment of fairy dust is already boxed, labeled, and waiting in a warehouse in her county with her name on it.

Amazon has patented “anticipatory shipping,” a way to get packages to its consumers in the fastest, creepiest way possible. By reading your mind tracking your previous purchases, watching your wishlist, and measuring the amount of time you’ve sat there with your cursor hovering over various products trying to remember what you were searching for in the first place, the company will guess what you’re about to buy. And they’re confident enough about their wizardry algorithms that they’re going to ship it to you in advance.

Based on your dreams, innermost thoughts, and diary entries, buying habits, they’ll ship packages “speculatively” to your geographic region, betting it will end up at your house. Amazon workers may even load the package onto a truck before your delivery address is officially added to the label.

If they ship it to you and you don’t get around to placing the order before it arrives at your door, Amazon considers this a relationship-building opportunity, not a loss. (We may have mentioned here before that the company’s not too worried about losing money.) “Delivering the package to the given customer as a promotional gift may be used to build goodwill,” says the patent.

After December’s record-breaking weather issues and overnight delivery problems, the corporate giant is likely trying to break away from deals with third-party delivery services. It’s also trying to amp up its grocery market, and those perishables are tough to get from point A to point B before you’ve even remembered you’re out of milk.

Diapers and disposable paper products are probably ordered at a consistent rate, and would be easy to stock in fulfillment centers around customer’s usual purchase dates. But aside from big brand authors or popular series, it’s harder to predict all of the dark magic that makes people buy books.

The news does bring to mind a sketch comedy clip from The Bilderbergers:



Kirsten Reach was an editor at Melville House.