Banks are spending lots on A.I.—and they want to use it to manipulate you into spending more money.

Banks love to brag about how many data scientists they’re hiring and their shiny machine-learning “centers of excellence.” In the 2018 JP Morgan Chase annual report, CEO Jamie Dimon said the company had gone “all in” on artificial intelligence, adding that artificial intelligence and machine learning were “being deployed across virtually everything we do.” Not to be outdone, HSBC has opened multiple “data and innovation labs” around the world, in order to build artificial intelligence tools that can take in the bank’s more than 10 petabytes of data. CitigroupBank of America, and Capital One also boast about their artificial intelligence capabilities, particularly to their would-be investors.

Of course, some of this is hype: Banks believe they can get a certain brand patina from looking and acting like tech companies. But as Oxford technologist Nick Bostrom points out, artificial intelligence technology has the potential go from staggeringly dumb to effectively omniscient rather quickly. The fact that your bank’s chatbot seems pretty lame is no reason to write off what Wall Street is capable of. A report published this month by the Bank of England finds that two-thirds of U.K. banks already use machine learning or artificial intelligence to run their business. The report is one of first instances of a regulatory agency systematically documenting the widespread adoption of machine learning and artificial intelligence in banking. (U.S. regulators haven’t published similar findings, but it’s clearly happening on a comparable scale here.)


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