When they inevitably make a Social Network
-style movie about the rise of Amazon to full-blown Skynet
omniscience, the equivalent of that film’s infamous
‘a million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars’ will come in the closing months of 2013. Deep into a late-night development meeting, containers of Chinese food strewn across a conference table, someone will finally crack and say what no one else dares: ‘why don’t we just send people stuff they didn’t even ask for?
‘ Equal parts excitement and trepidation, the others will gasp, give each other the side-eye and stutter ‘but… but how could we ever get away with that?’ And the Archimedes who cracked this eureka moment will confidently intone ‘because we’re Amazon’.
Continuing the dystopianism evident in last year’s experiments with drones
, Amazon has filed a patent
for what it refers to as ‘anticipatory shipping’, using shoppers’ purchase history as a means of predicting which items will sell well in which areas and stocking local delivery hubs accordingly. Not only that, in some cases it will even have items ‘speculatively shipped to a physical address’ – which, obviously, might not take if it’s something a customer doesn’t actually want, but Amazon appear willing to take that chance, going so far as to suggest that these unsolicited deliveries be used as ‘a promotional gift’ to ‘build goodwill’.
That ‘promotional gift’ might not even be something related to what you’ve previously bought, with the metrics for anticipatory shipping also taking into account wishlists, previous searches and, most frighteningly, the length of time your cursor has spent sitting on a particular item on-screen. Bet all that time you’ve spent laughing at that canvas print of Paul Ross
won’t seem so funny when the neighbours see it drop from the sky to your door.