“It’s a great, efficient way to take people’s money,” said Marayah Jerry as she waited at the drive-through to collect a Ranch Snack Wrap. “I’ll come with an idea of what I want, and then I see the pictures, and I’m like, ‘That looks good.’”
Another drive-through customer, Dalila Ruiz, said she noticed the suggested add-ons at the bottom of the menu board but resisted the temptation to splurge. “I don’t want to be so fat,” Ms. Ruiz said.
Not all McDonald’s customers are likely to show such discipline. Critics of artificial intelligence have long warned that the technology could lead to a dystopian future in which humans are subordinate to machines.
Before the robot apocalypse, however, A.I. might simply make us fatter.
“There are real, significant unintended consequences of something like this further driving unhealthy eating and more fast-food eating and obesity rates and diabetes rates going up,” said Scott Kahan, a doctor who directs the National Center for Weight and Wellness, an obesity clinic in Washington, D.C. “These sorts of technologies are making it hard for people to just find some reasonable moderation.”
There is plenty of precedent for companies like McDonald’s finding creative ways to persuade Americans to consume more calories. But the marriage of a fast-food giant and an artificial-intelligence start-up marks an unusual new chapter.
When Mr. Agmon, the co-founder of Dynamic Yield, announced the McDonald’s acquisition in a company WhatsApp chat in March, his colleagues thought he was joking. “When you start working for a tech company,” Mr. Agmon said, “you don’t expect this.”
Soon, however, the news began to sink in: The next day, 250 McDonald’s hamburgers arrived at Dynamic Yield’s headquarters in Tel Aviv, along with fries for the whole staff.
But this wasn’t really a McDonald’s crowd. By the time the staff finished hugging and congratulating each other, the burgers were cold.