The Efficiency Machine

“Marketing is one of those complex fields of human activity, like military strategy or sex, where efficiency and effectiveness are poorly correlated”

—Rory Sutherland, Advertising is in a Crisis But Not Because It Does Not Work

Automation is here for those all linear, repeateitvae jobs – but will it do a good job?

As consumers we are increasingly capable at navigating ourselves out of the sale funnel: either by realizing that something is showing in our feed because of a message we sent, or a search query. Or by deleting Facebook from our phones.

The more we are able to exercise Consumer Intelligence the less effective complicated simplistic algorithms will be.

The Efficiency Machine – which governs this state – is made of algorithms, status quo, and single minded humans who accept both. It is also big, loud and hard to disagree with.

But this is not a revised call for an uprising on our loom machines, the luddites had it wrong. This is an articulation of a question we have not thought about asking yet. How might ask more from ourselves by asking more from our tools?

The other side of the automation age is the ability to deliver context in scales like never before. We know more about who we are, what we like, where we’re going, and who might we see there. But the current programming of The Efficiency Machine is leaving a lot on the table. Flattening all users to the to the median, focusing on segments and then averaging them. This clustering and calculating of the intersectionality of our identity and circumstances is the core of the problem.

When single minded humans over–promise machines’ value the luddites get another point. Efficiency is important in the physical world, in production and distribution of goods. But with near zero scaling costs and increasing algorithmic independence the market is asking for more, people are asking for more expansive thinking.

The transition between efficiency and effectiveness is one of metrics. In understanding, capturing and articulating how The Efficiency Machine makes us feel.

Algorithms are fed with data, structured reason, and numbers. But we messy humans are nothing but reasonable. We have opinions, biases and world views. We live in a reality cushioned by biases and ambitions.

These are all intuitive to us, but very difficult to articulate. Qualitative data such as our thoughts and feeling are contextual to our reality, and we construct our reality in our minds.

What is there was a way of bridging that reality with what we’re asking the efficiency machine? Could that machine be humbler, and more thoughtful?

Walking through downtown New York you could encounter more than a handful of carefully delivered brand-in-a-box store. A brand started online as a response to a market segment The Efficiency Machine deemed underserved. A minimum viable brand was produced, ads went on the L line, where The Efficiency Machine noticed the average customer lives, and on Instagram where The Efficiency Machine goes out clubbing. Walking into any of these stores you can hear the chunks of the assembly line needing some fresh oil. It is like The Efficiency Machine is trolling reality.

We are told that the machine will replace an array of roles (blue, white collar). But will it be effective as it would be efficient?

Published by Nitzan

I am a designer, writer and strategist with interest in machine learning, liminal thinking and complexity science. In my commercial work I help companies build innovative tools, design better qualitative processes, and lead that human machine collaboration with complexity in mind.

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