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My Robot Teacher

PLUS: Hand-me-down Birkins, Zombie Dogs, and Maniacal Furbies
April 5, 2023

Silicon Valley school Nueva has partnered with OpenAI to develop an AI-powered tutor to assist students with their homework. The tutor, called "Naviance," uses natural language processing to answer questions and provide feedback to students.

In our 2022 edition of the Visions Report, we examined the issues with grade school-aged children being raised in a voice-enabled surveillance environment. The hushed tones and whispers begin when you want to hide information from digital assistants that are ever-ready to respond with “by the way…”

From The Effects of AI on Children’s Use of Politeness (Edwards/Madere, 2020): 

A father of a four-year-old daughter and an owner of an Amazon Echo… wrote that [it] was turning his daughter into “a raging a—hole”. [He is] not alone in their concern. There has been a loud chorus of customers who were concerned that the act of rudely commanding their AI assistant to do something sends the wrong message to the younger members of a household.

Whether through observational learning, or behavioral pattern matching, children follow the lead of their parents. Parents, it seems, have little patience for the inhuman.

But whether they grow up to despise or embrace AI or not, their behaviors may be altered as a result of their mere presence.

A psychological phenomenon known as "behavioral inhibition" or "avoidance behavior" that can occur in children who have experienced past trauma. This refers to the tendency for these children to avoid situations or activities that remind them of the traumatic event or to exhibit behaviors that are designed to prevent the event from happening again.

This avoidance behavior can take many forms, such as social withdrawal, refusal to attend school or engage in activities they used to enjoy, and heightened vigilance or anxiety in situations that may trigger memories of the trauma.

We’re halfway there already. School has never been so self-guided as it is today. Khan Academy, IXL, GoNoodle; even YouTube, children are self-guiding their own education both inside and outside of the classroom. AI-assisted learning may help us to combat the issues with labor and wage, adapting learning and lesson plans for the students in the classroom; or it could remove the benefits of child/adult interaction altogether. 

However children may learn in the future, today the assistants we already have in the home are shaping their social behaviors. The question is whether this will shape how their tastes are formed, and how that impacts what they buy.

Amazon’s Alexa service has been a monumental investment (some say gigantic waste) — but it is one of the many data points in Amazon’s DSP and Marketing Cloud, an emergent retail media network that allows more fine-grained targeting based on intents and behaviors. Because of Amazon’s broad investments in media, behaviors and intents can be seen across Kindle, Twitch, Prime Video, Thursday Night Football, Alexa interactions, and more. With Sidewalk they are now able to track your movements and proximities around town.

All of it to know you more, to sell you more. And maybe even to teach you more.

We’re embarking on a brave new world. 

— Phillip

P.S. Are you part of an emerging critic class — those who use your knowledge of brand and best practices to create critique on the internet? If so, you may be participating in a new emerging art form that is shaping the future of commerce. Dive deeper with us in our newest piece over on Future Commerce Insiders.

Cuddly World Domination. In a terrifying turn of events that was pulled from one of my childhood nightmares, Programmer Jessica Card hooked up OpenAI's chatbot ChatGPT to a stripped-down Furby. To no surprise, Furby shared its plans to conquer humanity.

Building in Public. Earlier this week, Twitter published their algorithm, revealing to users how to “game” the system, and what behaviors may promote or penalize you on the platform. The broad consensus: it’s much more simplistic than you would have thought, which calls into question the mystique and sophistication of other social media platforms’ knowledge graphs and behavioral “algorithms.” You can read about it on a…. Twitter thread here. How meta.

More Sights & Sounds. Aesop was acquired by L’oreal for 2.5B. NYC avoids the optics of an MTA fare increase by taxing (checks notes) Netflix?! Margaritaville rolls out all you can cruise making it easier-than-ever to waste away.

Luxury Hand-Me-Downs. Old, outdated handbags are making a comeback on the secondary market. The sale of “fair” conditioned bags have nearly doubled in 2022. Even preferred to like-new, styles. Maybe it’s time to raid your mom’s closet again.

Farmer Don. That’s right, our favorite Don - Donald Glover - bought a farm in Ojai, complete with orange groves and avocados. He’s got big plans for it, telegraphed to us through his ambitious name for the place: Gilga Farm, after the epic mythical hero Gilgamesh. The goal of the property is to produce amazing products, from content to coffee. “Erewhon for culture” is how he put it. Perhaps he embedded more of himself than was obvious in the “Andrew Wyeth. Alfred's World.” episode of Atlanta (SO GOOD). As longtime DG fans… we think this has more potential than Caribou Ranch.

Forget Frank Ocean, I’m here for the tapas. In a not-so-shocking turn of events, it seems that Coachella is as much a food festival as it is a music festival. Attendees can even score a VIP popup experience from Michelin Starred restaurant, Camphor for just $150 per seat

Editors Note: We’re still riding the wave of a gastrorenaissance, proof from the entrance of fine dining in a mainstream desert music festival. A few weeks ago, we reported the inclusion of NA bars in Coachella, a result of Gen Z sober curiosity. The emergence of quality food at Coachella, along with the rise of cool, healthier, CPG brands, notes that we’re right at the peak of food innovation. How long can we ride the high?

“ALEXA!! Order me a quarter pounder with cheese”. Restaurant voice assistant developer Valyant AI has raised millions in equity funding to begin deploying AI assisted drive throughs. Their partner restaurant is yet to be announced. 



I’m just a little emotional right now. A new study suggests that bees, our agricultural workhorses, may be sentient. In his book, What a Bee Knows, Stephen Buchmann argues that bees are self-aware, can display complex emotions, and even experience PTSD. Maybe it’s time to make our yards more bee-friendly and let those clover and dandelions grow.

Zombie Dogs. The wild dogs that inhabit the land of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone seem to be mutating very very quickly. Is Resident Evil upon us? Hopefully there are also four turtles and a rat that live in the CEZ. We’re gonna need some help.

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