The Magic of Technology

I finally purchased an album from Apple’s online music store, Van Morrison’s Magic Time, based on Jonathon Delacour’s recommendation at Burningbird.

Now iTunes’s bot is recommending songs based on that sole purchase, and it’s frightening how right-on they’ve been based on the albums they’ve suggested so far.

Their first recommendation was David Gray’s White Ladder, an album I already own and one of my favorite young artists. Also recommended Tracy Chapman’s Where You Live, one of the few albums I don’t already own. Bruce Springsteen, another favorite, though I probably own too many of his albums already. The Rolling Stones used to be a big favorite, too, until the Altamont Concert where they used Hells Angels as guards.

Am I really that predictable? Can I be classified by one song? Do you think Apple knows I also like Mahalia Jackson? Can they predict I’d like Jeff Lorber because I met him when I lived in Vancouver? Do I dare buy those albums, or will they know so much about me that I’ll constantly be bombarded with a list of songs I want to buy?

What happens if I buy a John Denver album? Will my records be turned over to the FBI because I sympathize with eco-terrorists? If I buy a Cat Stevens album, will they see my name mentioned on the alt-muslim site and assume I have muslim-terrorist leanings?

If the FBI could somehow combine my Amazon recommendations, my Apple recommendations, my Yahoo groups, and my Google searches, they could probably tell how many times a month I did or didn’t sleep with my wife. Turn the same information over to retailers, and I probably wouldn’t have enough money left to buy food at the end of the month.

I don’t know if I’m more worried that I might be little more than a Living Stereotype of the Past or that there are databanks and artificial intelligence bots out there that our government could use to target us through the Patriot Act. Considering my support for both Greenpeace and the ACLU, I think I’m more worried about Big Brother.

I suspect if the Bush administration really understood how subversive to the present administration human intelligence is they’d be on my trail in a nanosecond. Yes, I know that sounds egotistical. Teaching thirty years will give you vague, or not-so-vague, feelings of superiority, not to mention a sense of humility once you realize how few people really want to appear intelligent.

I’m probably just being paranoid, though. Bush’s cronies probably don’t give a damn because they’ve figured out that intelligence isn’t contagious, and there’s little chance that anyone on the internet is going to make a a bit of difference in the real world of high-rolling money peddlers and influence buyers.

3 thoughts on “The Magic of Technology”

  1. Amazon’s recommender bot got really confused when I ordered a bunch of Bruce Cockburn’s CDs, followed by a short period where I bought CD reissues of some late 60s/early 70s stuff (Quicksilver Messenger Service, James Gang, Jackson Browne), followed by some old big band CDs for my mother. I get a pretty diverse mix of recommendations now. I should order some classical and really hose it.

  2. I had some of the same problems, Harry, when my wife used my account to order a number of books on quilting. It doesn’t help when you order Christmas or birthday presents for relatives with different tastes than your own, either.

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