I know, curation it’s not really a new concept in business. Amazon popularised suggestions connected to what you’re currently looking at that is now a staple of every e-commerce site out there.
Spotify and Apple both curate music. In the case of Spotify their “mixtapes” is all you see on the home screen and I’d say it’s becoming a big part of what people use (and they want you to use of course). You just want to listen to a genre, type or mood of songs — not work as a DJ, actively managing the upcoming songs.
You also have companies like Outfittery who curates outfits and sends these to you, neatly presented in a box and where you choose to buy the whole outfit or selected items.
My belief is that we’re only at the beginning of the story and as the problem grows, the solutions need to be refined and more companies will need to adopt a strategy around this to be relevant. The assumption, that we’ll see an acceleration in curational services now, is based on a set of macro trends that are colliding.
ONE. We’re being flooded by information, options and opportunities. It leads to what is called decision fatigue, meaning the more decisions we’re forced to make the more the quality of our decisions deteriorate. There’s only so much information we can compute and only so much we can know and make informed decisions about.
TWO. The power of AI is getting more and more mature. Even though machine learning isn’t new, it’s improving by the second and is becoming more readily available every day as various services. There are more people going into the field and more companies who offer machine learning services.
THREE. On the rise, is the Internet of Things that is filled with possibilities no one quite knows what they are. I believe more types of input and sensors will provide us other kinds of data. That will enable us to see new connections and patterns as it won’t just tell us about ourselves but about the larger context.
By saying services should be more curated, the other side of the penny is of course filter bubbles and the fact that whoever curates the choices we make gains tremendous power, regardless if that is a machine or person. I would argue that our knowledge has always been controlled, curated if you will, by what information is presented how and there aren’t a lot of people whose job it is to actually go to the bottom of things. Governments, companies or just about any person on a dating site, self-interest is a big motivator. However, the ways in which information has been manipulated is feasible to get your head around and understand, and that allows it to be challenged. The more complex, AI-powered and hidden curation is, the harder that becomes. There definitely has to be discussions and awareness highlighting the difficulties and potential dangers.
This isn’t a reason not to pursue it though but is why transparency towards users are key when building the next generation of curated experiences. Nobody wants to feel cheated or exploited and nobody wants to find out after a year that they’ve been tracked and had their data sold. It is important to not only focus on the technology and engineering but integrate design thinking and empathy into the process.
Is this the end of serendipity, fluke and spontaneous discoveries?
Well, the more users can be assisted in choices that are not a priority to them or where they don’t have enough knowledge, the more they can focus on things that are meaningful or where their skills can contribute the most. This should be the value companies brings to users.
I believe there is a huge monetary incentive for those who manages to create worlds that captures people’s imagination by defining their problems and needs correctly. This is not to say that asking them will get you the answer, they might be utterly unaware because the human being is amazing at adapting to her environment, good or bad.
I also believe that focusing on curating experiences will reduce clutter and lousily made products, it forces us to be appropriate (more on appropriate-first in a previous article of mine).