Machine Customers Are Not Customers Who Buy Machines
April 3, 2023 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The world is getting truly strange. I can appreciate that in a world where hundreds of millions to billions of users all make use of humongous applications that have hundreds to thousands of calls to microservices application snippets and service. But somehow, I just cannot make the leap to something that Gartner is now calling “machine customers.”
The term came to light, for us at least, two weeks ago when two market researchers at Gartner – Don Scheibenreif, distinguished vice president analyst and leader of Gartner’s research on customer experience, and Mark Raskino, also a distinguished vice president analyst as well as a Gartner Fellow and leader of Gartner’s CEO research – put out a book called When Machines Become Customers and declared that “the machine customer era had already begun.”
It is bad enough that we are automating all of the backend and sales front ends of our B2B applications, but now we are automating the people who do the buying through such systems from the outside. As the authors put it, there are 9.7 billion IoT devices on Earth that are capable of some modicum of action, and there are only around 8 billion people on the planet. Gartner is further predicting that in a mere four years, half of the people living in the advanced economies – places where you find IBM mainframes and minicomputers still doing useful work – will have personal assistants that make use of AI in some form or another to do their jobs in conjunction with us. For now, humans lead, but the AI executes, but in the long run, by 2036, the AI will be doing the leading and the executing.
“What the machine customers from each phase have in common is that they will make decisions differently from humans in three ways,” Scheibenreif explained in talking about the launch of the book. “They are logical and will make decisions based on rules that may or may not be transparent. Second, they can also process large amounts of information. Lastly, machines focus on completing tasks efficiently and without emotion, and they can’t be influenced by being ‘wine and dined.’”
Why this is considered progress is beyond me, but I am probably just being emotional about my own obsolescence. I happen to like doing things – lots of things – and taking care of things.
I don’t want you to get off my lawn, either. Rather, I want you to get onto my lawn. Be real, be a person, enjoy this life we have. What I do not want is this world that is emerging that doesn’t need people except to consume. And, with machine customers, maybe not even that.