The Business Opportunity of the Century
In the Information Age, we have more choices than ever before — which makes choosing harder than ever. If you go to your local store, you can choose from maybe 50,000 books; but offers millions. Thankfully, it also has a ‘model of you’, based on everything you’ve ever done on the site. Effectively, this model does your browsing for you, and presents you with your own bookshelf, different from everyone else’s. has a similar model for movies. These customer models generate 33 per cent of Amazon’s revenue and 75 per cent of Netflix’s.
Such models aren’t just for books and movies: increasingly, they are being created for everything we consume, online or offline. Even uses machine learning to decide which goods to stock and where to put them in the store. Machine learning is the new ‘middleman’ in just about every transaction — from products to jobs, medical treatments, even relationships. These days, a third of all marriages start out on the Internet, and the matchmakers are machine-learning algorithms.
There is one big problem with all of this: each company’s ‘model of you’ is based on its own interactions with you. As a result, these models are extremely narrow and incomplete. There is a better way, and it involves pooling all of the data you generate, and from it, creating one complete, 360-degree Model of You.
Think of all the variables that characterize you, and how they depend upon each other. In principle, machine learning can figure out those dependencies. As a result, it will soon be able to predict what you need right now, or whether two people are a good romantic match — not just based on their profiles, but on their entire lives. It will also be able to predict whether you would enjoy a particular job at a particular company, based on everything it knows about you, the job, and the company. And from your vital signs — continuously captured by your smartphone’s sensors — it will be able to predict whether you’re about to have a heart attack, and call 911.
If today’s models of you — based on only a sliver of your data — are already so valuable, imagine how valuable such a 360-degree Model of You would be?
One day soon, everything that gets bought and sold will be based on these models. Personal models are the ultimate platform, and the world economy will run on them. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this may be the greatest business opportunity in history — and that whoever provides people with their personal models will be running the world economy. Not surprisingly, several powerful companies are already pursuing this full tilt: has Google Now; has Siri; has Cortana; has M; Amazon has Echo. And there are others.
Wouldn’t it be crazy to try to compete with these giants? Actually, no. The problem is that each of these companies has an existing business model, and at the end of the day, none of them is compatible with the idea of personal models. The reason is simple. These companies have a conflict of interest. They want to serve you, but they also want to make money in their own specific ways: Apple by selling you gadgets, Google by showing you ads, and so on. What we really need is a different kind of company — one that is to your data a bit like your bank is to your money. Your bank stores your money and keeps it safe, but it does more than that: it invests it on your behalf. Similarly, your data bank will store your data, learn and continually update the Model of You and use it to accomplish things for you.
Once you have a personal model, you will be able to tell it that you’re looking for a job, and have it instantly interview for all the open positions that match your specifications, by interacting at high speed with the models of the employers’ HR departments. While one copy of your model is doing this, another can be browsing for a new car, exhaustively researching all the options and haggling with car dealer bots, so you don’t have to.