Randomizers — The unRecommendation Engine
One cloudy evening as I was reflecting on life, stuck in traffic on 880N making my way back to East Bay, it occurred to me that life has interestingly become routine in more ways than usual. I think Pink Floyd will sum it up as Comfortably Numb.
Life is really a routine, especially when you are caught in the Silicon Valley race where the cost of participating in world transforming innovation is your soul and some. Never the matter that most are pushing the dream of a visionary and helping making it real. Hey, who’s to judge — it is the second best thing I suppose.
So, what gives ? Why does this feeling of routine feel deeper. Weeding out the obvious, I realize that my life is now slowly being lead by Algorithms and Recommendations. The problem with this is that there is a Catch-22 in these pattern hungry learning engines — Oh, you like this, then here is more. Oh you like what I am doing, yippee, here is more. And pretty soon, your stimulations in life seem to be the same at a deep, deep level… from music, news to topics of interest. The smarter these engines, the consistent the experience gets. Are we destined to fall to the parable of “You will only know what you know” ?
Music: As we move from Radio to streaming services like Spotify, Pandora we tend to listen to more of the same — from our radio stations to Weekly Discoveries.
News: As we move from an all encompassing newspapers to Flipboard, Google Newsstand, Twitter and the likes — we tend to know a lot more of a lot little less.
Social: From water cooler conversations to talking to folks around us in coffee lines at Starbucks, we find us liking, commenting, reading feeds of the folks we follow on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and to always the exploding WhatsApp conversations of select friends. (love them, but can’t take only them all day, all night, all year — like a never ending Thanksgiving dinner)
Movies/TV: From TV where the news and content was not just for me but a buffet for my choosing (albiet a painful one like at Old Country Buffet) to Netflix where everything is a Recommendation based on my previous views.
The list goes on and on — from Google Now’s Things to do, Groupon & Gilts carefully crafted emails to Retargeting of Ads.
It is time to Randomize — Give me back the jukebox that others feed, give me back those random interactions, those random shows and random songs — take me back to the garden of randomness. Fuck with these engines! (as Rage Against The Machine would say)
I am thinking of a Random-Engine service where you feed your streams, playlists, friends, news feeds, product searches and the likes a steady stream (no-pun intended) of randomness, just enough to help me know what I don’t. Those random friend requests, those random articles and random music listens so I can get that feeling of life back.