Won’t A.I. Beer Inevitably Result in Bud Light?

Won't A.I. Beer Inevitably Result in Bud Light?

I somehow missed the yuuuuge rollout this summer of IntelligentX, a Britain-based project to produce beer that responds via algorithm to customer choice:

After you’ve tried one of our four bottled conditioned beers, you can tell our A.I. what you think of it, via our online feedback system. This data is then used by our algorithm to brew the next batch.

Because our A.I. is constantly reacting to user feedback, we can brew beer that matches what you want, more quickly than anyone else can. That means we get more data and you get a better, fresher beer.Paging through Google search results, I see they got a massive amount of press for this, nearly all of it happy to goose the hype machine. (Admittedly, combining “AI” and “beer” is genius clickbait and I kick myself for not thinking of it first.) For some reason, there’s a new round of hype, which is how I stumbled on this just now.Won\'t A.I. Beer Inevitably Result in Bud Light?

As far as the project goes: whatever. It seems almost inevitable that someone would have invented this in 2016. (In fact, if Elon Musk is right, it was algorithms that led us here in the first place–algorithms within algorthims.) Every start up in the world is trying to figure out how to monetize app-collected data, and fusing that to the jillion-dollar beer industry is a no-brainer.

I am surprised no one pointed out the three fatal flaws behind the rationale for this project, though. My guess is most brewers would have seen it immediately. First, incorporating feedback into recipes is what breweries do. Markets function as far more effective algorithms than a consequence-free thirteen seconds tapping buttons on a smart phone. There are five thousand US breweries making at a minimum 50,000 beers in the US, and the feedback of preference is available when a customer spends actual cash on a beer.

Second, people have different tastes. I was out for a beer last night with BeerAdvocate’s Ben Keene and Eater Seattle’s Adam Callaghan. We discussed how breweries now use IPAs as points of distinction–each one is different, to suit different tastes. And third, collecting the input of hive mind means finding the exact average of their preferences. It will produce a beer most people think is adequate. “In pursuit of the perfectly average beer” was probably not the motto they were shooting for. Brewers know you can either appeal weakly to the largest group (light beer) or powerfully to a small subset (distinctive IPAs), but you cannot simultaneously do both.
And one final thought I throw out to the techies out there. I’m not perfectly versed on my sci-fi futurism, but does any of this actually have anything to do with AI? I mean, find me a HAL who’s making his own beer, and then we’re talking.

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