Sunshine Superfood is a chatbot designed and run by tycoons in the superfood industry with stakes in four subsidiaries: a market intelligence company called Tridge, a meal subscription service called Daily Harvest, a print and digital magazine called Health, and the cosmetics empire Sephora. Its target users are mostly young, white females who appear to live more/less luxurious lifestyles and are active on Instagram. The bot matches a health or beauty concern input by the user to an item on a list of products in which the stakeholders have invested. The list of products is hierarchical. It changes every week according to market intelligence scraped from the Tridge database, organized from biggest to smallest percentage decrease in the global average wholesale price of each item. The bot enables its stakeholders to justify raising their retail markups by influencing consumer demand through trendsetting. So when avocados are having a good season and the market price is low, it makes avocado its top recommendation to users. Then, it recommends an item from Daily Harvest, an item from Sephora, and an article from Health in which avocado gets the spotlight. If the user doesn’t like what the bot suggests, it recommends the next item on the hierarchy. It appears to give legitimate nutritional advice based on the user’s concerns, but it really only cherry-picks data from scientific findings commissioned by a select group of affiliates.
I think in popular sci-fi culture, there are two types of AI, both of which bore me: robot butlers and rogue robot butlers. Because of my general lack of interest in the butler area of AI, I don't think I want a future in chatbot engineering, but it was still fun to make this. It's funny (and awful) how the weird socialization that happens around the power hierarchies that exist in retail have made their way into bots. Whilst training and testing Sunshine Superfood I remembered being a hostess at an upscale restaurant years ago and having patrons ask me what my favorite thing on the menu was. Rather than saying the truth, which was, "I have no idea, I can't afford to eat here," I would say, "the Andouille-crusted gulf fish," like all the other hosts did. Chatbots work the same way. I guess people want an element of subjugation in their service experiences.
IBM Watson Assistant
In emerging mediums like AI, we often have cliched understandings, driven by the hype or criticism surrounding the field. But our responsibility as designers is to learn about and advance new fields, so we are using the provocation of “Useless AI" to see beyond the default perspectives.