Spotify and the Internet

As recently reported by Fabio Chiusi on Wired, Spotify algorithm has changed. Now, it is much more sophisticated, but it is also the symbol of change in the internet and, consequently, in our life. Where is the border between free will and induced choice?

Yesterday, Fabio Chiusi wrote on Wired:

“Now, the point is: despite – or thanks to – the help provided by this digital prompter, I think that my tracks have never been as interesting as now. Above all, I have never felt them so close to me. But is this true, or has the algorithm persuaded me so? Do I love what I listen to because this has been built for me to love it? If so, does it mean that I am losing the habit of trying my hearing, of frequenting sounds that I would once have at least brushed? Am I not bringing myself into question anymore? How much am I really learning?” [My translation]

What Chiusi is worried about (and charmed by) is the mechanical precision with which the “mood” is caught. Spotify can migrate through different genres, while maintaining a certain “frequency”, the best one for the soul attached to the machine. Has the machine finally got a higher form of comprehension? That is the point, and it is not easy to discuss.

In the first place, this is not completely true. The internet is based on codes, languages. The most sophisticated ones are tasked with creating protocols saying to the machine how to behave, and some of them can go beyond: they can even change when the environment changes. They are the so-called genetic algorithms. They can mutate, they can learn.

On the other hand, the predictive process originated from programming gives us no knowledge, no changing. Algorithms aim to create a closed-circuit based on “what I want” and “what I will want”. In between, there is “what I will ask for”. This way, we end up coming back to ourselves, because of this constant mood repeated ad nauseam. It is an illusive phenomenon, because the internet itself is primarily illusion: there is an enormous difference between programming and user perception. In Spotify, this split becomes the disappearance of the time separating men and machines. Therefore, Spotify is so sophisticated that it makes us think that we have what we want, before we realise our will.

In conclusion, Spotify is a clear example of how programming language is gradually becoming another fundamental language, radically influencing our choice procedures. That is the reason why it needs to be studied, especially as regards public choices. We need it to be studied, because now it can hijack our mind with opportunities that are so close to our own will; because we can easily confuse our thoughts with Spotify suggestions.

Related Articles:
Perché ho cominciato a temere l’algoritmo di Spotify, Fabio Chiusi, Wired
Linguaggi del potere: dal latinorum agli algoritmi di borsa
, Francesco Finucci, InPress Magazine
Photo: Marc Smith/Flickr

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