Roy Green: What the algorithms really know about me
I’ve had a lifelong love affair with cars and owned more than 30.
The list includes a ’67 Mustang GT390 — an identical sibling to Steve McQueen’s ‘Stang featured in Bullitt, showing off still the greatest car chase in movie history. There have been three Corvettes, a handful of Mercedes, including a silver 500SL with AMG trim. A ’73 Chev Malibu sleeper with a 454 cu in engine, Hurst slapstick shifter and big ‘ol tires that would be at home on the backroads of Georgia or Alabama.
Recently, I’ve been on a nostalgia trip and searching some of my former beauties online. It’s been casual. Twenty minutes here, 45 minutes there. Plastic seats and bias ply tires are romantic only to a point.
Now, suddenly, as I power up the laptop and load a news story from a search engine, car ads push their way to screen prominence. No ’67 GT390 directly, but an ’07 Shelby GT500 is beckoning: 20,000 km and only $45,000. Alongside, just in case I have the yen (or dollars), is a 2019, 755hp Corvette ZR1, beginning at $118,900 pre-tax. But hey, the ad coos, it’s the fastest Corvette in history and will top 210 mph (330 km/h). That means the ZR will run alongside Sebastian Vettel’s Formula 1 Ferrari and give away nothing in a straight line.
By now, I have no idea what the news story was, nor why on God’s green pasture I may have had any interest. The program at the other end of my casual searches for personal history on wheels has recognized my true passion and is taking cyber advantage.
When I click on the visual of the ’07, 4oth anniversary Shelby ‘Stang or the ’19 ZR1, a drop down description/menu continues to push the drop dead gorgeous machines at me. Scroll a little further, and there’s the payment calculator. My downpayment/trade-in value of my current wheels makes the ‘Stang quite doable, and since I live alone now, the ZR seems to scream, “It’s nobody’s business but yours. Buy me.”
I’m not learning quickly enough. Now that I’ve posted I live alone (with the Rowdies, my two canine buddies), I’ll surely be seeing stuff for people who live as I do. Maybe $500 sweaters and $600 shoes (per shoe Imelda?). A $500 per night doggie spa to treat the Rowdies while I’m on my road trip?
The hook sinks in a little deeper. Where would I drive to in my ’19 ZR1? I’ve forgotten the Shelby (for now). Did I mention that since my cross-continent road trip last summer, ads for hotels in each province and state I visited pop onto my screen with annoying regularity. It works though. Now I’m scrolling Idaho, Montana, Utah and Nevada; not to mention B.C., Alberta and points east. I ask myself, What would that 7,000 mile trip be like in a ’19 ZR1?
Ever obligingly, the websites I used to book rooms while on the road appear. Great overnighters everwhere. Are they reading my mind or has an algorithm become Eve waving a shiny apple?
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Just for the heck of it, let’s crunch numbers. My trade in is worth about $30,000 — more if I sell it privately. That brings the ’19 ZR1 down to $90,000, or a monthly payment of about $2,000 for 60 months will stick that baby into my garage. The Shelby? Yup, still on the screen. Does the algorithm know $2,000 per month isn’t going to fly — and was selling the Shelby the intent all along? Five hundred hp with a cobra on the gas cap is cool and the design is timeless.
Oh boy, this data collecting stuff really works. Wait a minute. I also search-engined Kathleen Wynne.
Roy Green is the host of the Roy Green Show on the Global News Radio network.
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