Can We Imagine AI Tools that Fight for Consumers?

In 2024, we’ll be exploring how generative AI might change consumers’ experience of search, e-commerce, and other big parts of digital life. 

We know that AI is creating new harms and power imbalances. But, we also know that, in the right hands and with the right values, it can serve consumers’ best interests.

In particular, a lot of tech thinkers are excited by the potential of “agentic AI”: a new class of products that can perform complex tasks on a users’ behalf. 

Let’s imagine a future where AI is even more present in our everyday experience. As a consumer, you may have the choice of many AI “agents” that function as liaisons or brokers. They might help you transact with health providers (to schedule a procedure?), service providers (to negotiate a fee?), retailers (to initiate a return?), or government agencies (to file your taxes?). 

In this future, we as consumers will choose agents we trust to handle complex things on our behalf — delegating responsibility in order to save time or money, or to make an important decision, or to represent our interests. This year, the Lab will be exploring different conceptions and expressions of AI agents that are truly consumer-first.

Pro-consumer AI?

We think CR and its partners in the public interest tech space are well-positioned to innovate here. We’re tracking the development of agentic AI and have relevant experience operating Permission Slip — an “authorized agent” service that simplifies consumer privacy requests. 

Through Permission Slip, we’re hopefully earning trust that we’re able to translate consumers’ high-level intents and act in their best interests; we have technology and operations experience handling complex actions on behalf of users; and we’ve established a platform that enables us to broker interactions between consumers & companies. We’ve also been experimenting with conversational interfaces and chatbots.

This year, we’re going to be exploring ideas about what a next-gen “CR agent” might look like. Perhaps we can help people save time and money through an “intelligent buyer”? Or get access to justice through a “personal consumer advocate”? 

We’ve got some early thinking about harnessing the power of AI for consumers, and want to hear from you about how we might build it together.

Here are some of the early questions on our mind:

  • How can we build agents that represent consumers’ rights and interests? And what kind of frameworks should be established to ensure these agents are duty-bound to respect their users?
  • How can we help consumers save time and money? Can we broker better outcomes by facilitating transactions? Are there interesting proofs of concept we should study in the startup or civic tech spaces?
  • How can we make customer service better? How might agentic AI tools help people navigate customer service interactions with brands more efficiently?
  • How can we use AI to listen and channel consumer voice? Can we create systems to better understand consumers’ experiences and deliver feedback?
  • How might we model responsible development of LLM-based applications? What do application developers need to ensure their implementations help, and not harm consumers?

These are big questions and we’re looking for perspectives from technologists, entrepreneurs, researchers, and anyone else thinking about the future.

What’s on your mind? Whether you have new ideas, prototypes, or commercial solutions, we’d love to hear from you—reach out at

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