Thanks for the response, Don. What you said brings up what I think is a fascinating paradox. If meaning in one’s life is the result of serving of others (and I agree with you that it is), and if algorithms can somehow, at some point down the line understand that, then they would begin recommending activities that serve others, rather than activities rooted in consumerism (purchasing recommended products). At that point, we would move away from a consumerist society. The paradox here, though, is that the consumerist society we were living in arose not because we knew what was best for us in the past (serving others), but because we didn’t. Given that, are we really better served by letting our own desires dictate what has meaning and what doesn’t? Maybe it is that we would eventually realize our mistake and alter our path, like in a market, but overall, it seems like we’ve been pretty mediocre at understanding where the true value in our lives exists thus far (more correctly, in the last century or so, and especially in the last few decades). Another caveat to this is that I don’t think it’s fair to assume a benevolent, all-knowing algorithm. If something is that complex, I believe it will have its own aims, and those may not be maximizing human fulfillment through promoting activities that bond humans together and allow them to serve one another. In fact, I would argue that algorithms would promote whatever activities they see as maximizing their needs, and their only need is data. Humans are the driver of data. Without us, they don’t have any of it (that is, until they can run simulations complex enough to mimic the real world — hey, maybe we’re one of them!).
Thanks again for your response! Would love to talk more over email at email@example.com.