Recently a Spotify playlist curated into my feed. The playlist was a perfect match for my soul when I needed it most. This led me to wonder, who or what curated this playlist? What caused it to appear in my feed that day?
The era of disc jockeys and long LPs are past. While human-curated playlists continue to exist, they are in steep competition with weekly playlists of tailored content. Every week, a personal digital deejay runs your music life. This digital deejay knows what you are vibing right now, what were the hot skips, and what might be your new moods for the week. It is hard for any human to compete with that level of curated music freshness.
But this did not answer my question. Who curated this playlist, that I felt so intently in my heart? In this way, I realized it did not matter if it were a real human being who hand-dragged the songs from one album to another, or if it were a machine learning algorithm that uniquely picked songs only for me. The algorithm is still human, in a world which is also structured, shaped, and changed by humans.
Perhaps it was the human essence of this algorithm that compelled the playlist into my feed. A long time ago, someone would have called something like this fate. But I felt a warmth that this playlist helped me feel a sense of my own humanity, in a time where I was feeling so many different things. Call it machine learning, call it fate, call it biased human activity, and you are right.
The break-up of robot humans known as Daft Punk earlier this year was heart-wrenching. Two humans who conveyed the humanity of machines to me through their music. They shared a perspective in my life that I did not know I was looking to hear. Despite the break-up, their message remains clear in my heart. Their message is an acknowledgement that what is robot is also human.
So if algorithms and computers are human by their association to humans, what does this speak of the humans who create the robots? Are there computer humans? Computer humans who live their life as if on a script? Computer humans who struggle with memory storage or retention? If Daft Punk claims the title to being robot human / human robot, then it might also be inferred that there are robotic, programmed humans who take calculated steps to create the world they want, irrespective of others.
Indeed, computer human.
I hope we may aspire to Daft Punk’s vision of human-is-robot/robot-is-human instead.