What are AIs doing right now?

Though Luke and the LessWrong crew in general, I’ve recently gotten interested in in the future of AI. This has spilled over into  an interest in what (weak) AIs are doing right now, which is why I want to highlight this fascinating story (and hilarious; via Cory Doctorow):

Last year I published my children’s book about computer science, Lauren Ipsum. I set a price of $14.95 for the paperback edition and sales have been pretty good. Then last week I noticed a marketplace bot offering to sell it for $55.63. “Silly bots”, I thought to myself, “must be a bug”. After all, it’s print-on-demand, so where would you get a new copy to sell?

Then it occured to me that all they have to do is buy a copy from Amazon, if anyone is ever foolish enough to buy from them, and reap a profit. Lazy evaluation, made flesh. Clever bots!

Then another bot piled on, and then one based in the UK. They started competing with each other on price. Pretty soon they were offering my book below the retail price, and trying to make up the difference on “shipping and handling”. I was getting a bit worried.

The punchline is that Amazon itself is a bot that does price-matching. Soon after the marketplace bot’s race to the bottom, it decided to put my book on sale! 28% off. I can’t wait to find out what that does to my margin. (Update: nothing, it turns out. Amazon is eating the entire discount. This is a pleasant surprise.)

If you have similar cool stories of this sort, I’d be delighted if you’d link them in the comments.


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