I remember a big debate in the 1990s about the future of finance. One of the main themes was whether we needed intermediaries. After a quarter of century, the answer is yes. We have intermediaries to provide trust between two people who don’t trust each other. The trusted intermediary’s role is key.
The question is why would we trust an intermediary? Because they have a license? Because they are insured? Because they guarantee we won’t lose anything? There are many reasons. It dates back to the Knights Templar who founded Switzerland (long story).
The gist is that an independent third party – an intermediary – provides an independent ability to move funds, value and risk through their approved status as something that can be trusted.
Why am I talking about this today?
Because I was debated artificial intelligence (AI) as usual – it seems to be the thing this year – and got into a discussion about a world where two AI systems negotiate on your behalf with someone you want to do business with. Their AI chats with your AI and, eventually, agree a deal. In this instance, you no longer have an intermediary … you have an infomediary.
Boom! Suddenly that term, which I used twenty-five years ago, has returned.
An infomediary is where you delegate responsibility for your life decisions to an intelligent advisor. Assuming that the companies and people you deal with have done the same, then there’s no Ghost in the Machine … just a peer-to-peer network of trust between representative agents.
But then a third agent is required. The intermediary for the infomediaries. The intermediary is the trust third party whose role has always been required, as outlined above.
This then gets confusing, so let’s take an example.
You ask your AI avatar to buy something special for your partner’s birthday. Let’s say that it’s a bracelet, and you describe it as a bracelet that has meaning to your partner, who loves amber.
You’ve done your bit.
Your AI avatar reaches out to the network and gets hundreds of offers for amber stones and bracelets. It sifts through them all and, eventually, decides on Amber Ltd to buy the bracelet. Amber Ltd’s avatar starts negotiations with your avatar and they reach a deal for a large Amber stone mounted on a personalised bracelet for $500.
At this point, as you’re checking out, the avatars of your bank and their payments processor join in. They process the payment on your behalf. Why are they needed? Well, you wouldn’t trust sending $500 directly to Amber Ltd without a guarantee of the bracelet being delivered, would you?
We now have four AI avatars talking to each other, with no human hand involved. A few days later, a beautiful bracelet lands on your doorstep and is taken into the home by your housebot. Job done.
Meantime, as an fyi, ChatGPT says that “Intermediaries are entities that facilitate the exchange of goods or services between producers and consumers. They provide valuable benefits such as making it easier for buyers to find what they need, setting standards, enabling comparison shopping, managing risk, providing professional advice and information, and acting in the best interest of the clients.”
Now, imagine all of the above wrapped up in an AI engine that works on behalf of all the parties involved and you get the idea.
Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...