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Anne Hobson, Walter Stover

Articles by Anne Hobson, Walter Stover

Amazon, Artificial Intelligence, and Digital Market Manipulation

May 21, 2019

The advent of artificial intelligence technology use in dynamic pricing has given rise to fears of ‘digital market manipulation.’ Proponents of this claim argue that companies leverage artificial intelligence (AI) technology to obtain greater information about people’s biases and then exploit them for profit through personalized pricing. Those that advance these arguments often support regulation to protect consumers against information asymmetries and subsequent coercive market practices; however, such fears ignore the importance of the institutional context. These market manipulation tactics will not have a great effect precisely because they lack coercive power to force people to open their wallets. Such coercive power is a function of social and political institutions, not of the

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The Limits of AI in Predicting Human Action

February 8, 2019

Imagine visiting Amazon’s website to buy a Kindle. The product description shows a price of $120. You purchase it, only for a co-worker to tell you he bought the same device for just $100. What happened? Amazon’s algorithm predicted that you would be more willing to pay for the same device. Amazon and other companies before it, such as Orbitz, have experimented with dynamic pricing models that feed personal data collected on users to machine learning algorithms to try and predict how much different individuals are willing to pay. Instead of a fixed price point, now users could see different prices according to the profile that the company has built up of them. This has led the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, among other researchers, to explore fears that AI, in combination with big

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Resilient Communities Need Resilient Communications

November 26, 2018

This month, California’s deadliest fire displaced 150,000 people and simultaneously disrupted cell service in the heaviest-hit areas. Two months ago, Hurricane Florence rendered 10.7 percent of cell sites in affected areas of Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia out of service, disrupting communications for many in their time of greatest need. Victims of fires and storms alike depend on oftentimes-vulnerable infrastructure to talk to each other.
But what if you didn’t need cell towers or WiFi routers to communicate wirelessly? What if refugees could connect with each other using just their smartphones?
New technologies such as wireless mesh networks could allow you to talk to your friends and family on a smartphone even when cell towers or wireless services in your area stop working,

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