Oscar Wilde put it best – “A sentimentalist knows the value of everything and the price of nothing. A cynic know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Wilde’s quote will especially ring a bell when a humanoid bot will be able to call you to wish “happy birthday” and you would be able to program your own bot to say “thank you” at the precise moment in the coming future. The bots will be the cultured ones. It would be as rationally sentimental as laughter without comedy, or fun without happiness. Action without satisfaction.
As we move towards a surreal decade with unthinkable AI advancements that will soon redefine human beings in a few short years with all kinds of implants to enhance human abilities (i.e., AI machines using non invasive detecting technology to study your mental neurons and predict what you are about to say or are thinking to do – to physical abilities like nano drugs to enhance your memory etc. etc.), what would it mean to be a small business in that future? Will there be room for arbitrage for us simpletons to buy low and sell high when there is no trade secret or scarcity to create value for our goods and services? Will there be even the concept of trade left in such a robo-responsive world?
Maybe we have a partial answer to the above questions. Lincoln famously said “you can fool some people all the time and all people some of the time. But you can’t fool all the people all the time.” Getting “fooled” is an emotional response. Emotional Intelligence allows us to hopefully not remain a fool all the time, but the degree of that intelligence creates the fool in us nonetheless. That emotional level of intelligence is what creates opportunities to make the commercial world go round for everyone. Emotions and scarcity create markets. Think of anything, diamonds, weddings, fashion, cell phones, cars, real estate, restaurants, tourism, religion, politics…all are opportunities for markets in Emotional Intelligence. We “love ’em” without rhyme or reason but for pure joy and happiness. Artificial Intelligence on the other hand is a mirage of intelligence. Like water that doesn’t quench your thirst, its intelligence without wisdom. Like a car it can drive for miles, but only where we take it – responsibly and irresponsibly.
So what kind of clients are going to visit small businesses in the future when All Things Internet and AI become ubiquitous? Some may well turn out to be like those queens in fairy tales that talk to mirrors. But most human clients will likely be the ones needing a shoulder to cry on. Not a cold shoulder, a fake smile, a make believe goodwill greeting from parroted puppets or images, but a genuine human that understands their emotions in terms of friendship, respect, real goodwill and each other’s happiness. In other words, an emotionally intelligent customer service at a boutique print shop or a business center with a sense of humor from out of this world. The AI machines can do all the routine work automatically, but their actions will only be valuable in the emotionally intelligent market as long as there is a real human appreciation and acknowledgement behind it – a string behind the puppet pulled by a human ultimately, to take its responsibility. Victor Hugo said it best in Les Miserables, “The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.