Babylon Revisited

March 20, 2024

Hi Futurists!

Like many of you, we were back at Shoptalk again this week. I empathize with Phillip’s remarks on our recent After Dark episode: It’s beginning to feel like a routine. At this point, I know exactly how to make my way through the jungle that is arranged meetings, a massive expo, wild parties, and a legitimate concert.

But let me tell you - jungle it was. The arranged meetings were as frenetic as ever, with the jostling, bumping, hustling - even running - between meetings. LinkedIn connections were made as fast as humanly possible, and the speed dating-esque ritual was… vibrant. As Phillip put it: “Plumage on full display”.

The themes of Shoptalk this year were also evident throughout the event. Whereas last felt like there were mixed messages (ie, “we were wrong about live stream shopping and this AI thing is all that anyone cares about now”), this year the opening keynote hit hard with four main messages:

Did I say four? I mean one. GenAI was EV-ER-Y-AI-WHERE. It felt like every booth and piece of collateral I was forced to accept had AI listed in bold, italicized, all-caps Garamond. 


A couple months ago I wrote about the heyday of eCom and signs that were were coming to the end of the empire. But what are we entering? Yep you guessed it: Baibylon.

So now whether you call it ecommerce, eCommerce, or just plain commerce, you can’t escape that commerce will have AI involved at some level, maybe at every level.

I’m tired and boarding my flight home (after two weeks on the road) so more insights about the event coming soon, but I’ll leave you with two additional observations:

  • THE SWAG WAS INSANE. Custom Stanleys and sneakers, Kenough sweatshirts, BROTHER SEWING MACHINES ON THE EXPO FLOOR. Marketing budgets have been REPLENISHED. The money is so back, and I think GenAI funding is helping fuel some of it.
  • People were OUT. Not just at the conference, but Vegas itself seemed alive. Ever restaurant and event venue I visited was full. Biden visited. The Golden Knights Played. Concerts were everywhere. It was St. Paddy’s Day.

More coming in a wrap-up pod with Phillip. I’m ready to go home!


Sight & Sound. Following his fall from eCommmerce grace, MrBeast lands a deal with Amazon MGM to try his hand at creating a reality competition series featuring a $5 million payout. In attempts to “drive speed and efficiency,” Walmart tested out an RFID checkout experience, but don’t expect to see it at your local store anytime soon. Fermat’s last theorem is finally getting formally checked via computer proofing, ending a centuries-long quest for mathematicians. In a defining moment for digital currency's clash with national sovereignty, Nigeria's detention of two Binance employees highlights the growing tensions between the global crypto industry and governmental efforts to regulate its economic impact. Godzilla is now the face of raising public awareness of traffic safety in Japan. A striking image of a rogue floating soccer ball covered in barnacles wins the British Wildlife Photography Award…literally depicting when the commerce becomes refuse which then becomes art.

Touch. The future of Prada includes Metaverse handbags.

Pictured: “Short King Spring” ChatGPT generated. Prompted by Erika Dyer for Future Commerce

The Palate. It’s officially “Short King Spring” according to the Dunkin’ app. Bye-bye plastic, K-cups are out, K-Rounds are in. Governor Ron DeSantis is ready to declare lab-grown meat persona non grata. We were right, space-ial commerce is in! Find a new Sonic float and 4 new space-themed flavors from Jeni’s Ice Cream just in time for April’s solar eclipse.

Image Credit: Christian Wiediger via Unsplash

As YouTube introduces a new policy requiring creators to flag realistic-looking AI-altered or synthetic content, particularly in content around health and politics, the move underscores a broader tech industry quandary: how to rein in the burgeoning tide of AI-generated misinformation without stifling innovation. This initiative represents YouTube's attempt to balance the promise of generative AI against the perils of digital deception.

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