Image Source: Amazon Books

Over at The Corridor of Uncertainty, Alastair Creelman highlights the problem of mass personalization. For him, all this personalization comes about as a result of algorithms that offer up what we have chosen in the past. “Today we feel used and manipulated by algorithm-driven recommendations that are now extremely commercialised. If you keep getting fed music or literature that you already like you’ll never discover anything new,” he says.

Tonight, while exercising on the stepper, I found myself wanting to listen to a particular song. I like the song because the beat and music allow me to get lost in the moment. I usually put the song on repeat and that’s my whole exercise routine right there for an hour and a half. But, trying to do that via Amazon Alexa, it wouldn’t allow me to listen to one song on repeat. I had to listen to a stream. After arguing with Alexa for a few minutes, I unplugged it. I resolved to get rid of Amazon Prime services since they keep charging more and more for what once was basic functionality. Instead, I played the music on my phone, that I had saved previously.

Everywhere I go online, the specter of mass personalization appears. On the one hand, I like seeing books I like to read pop up. But after reading one LitRPG, I have read dozens because those are all that are recommended. I’m now switching to other sources of books, including print, to escape the algorithm that keeps recommending these types of stories. When I login, I buy what I’ve already decided is good…not what is recommended.

Alastair makes this point:

Google frequently suggested my own blog posts or articles whereas I can hardly find them with Duckduckgo! I’ve stopped using TripAdvisor since since reviews can be written by bots or trolls. I don’t use Amazon anymore and my use of Spotify is sinking to the point where I don’t think I want to subscribe anymore. We don’t need to go completely offline but treat the big tech platforms with extreme care and suspicion. There are alternatives out there.

Sure, I get it. It’s time to disconnect from the commercialized algorithms that simply want to exploit us for financial gain. As my father would say, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” That’s one of the reasons I’ve been eliminating online services, and why I’m here at Micro blog. With one monthly fee, I get multiple services that would otherwise cost a lot more.

But how do you dismantle this system of personalization algorithms and still get the benefits?

Update: Feedback from Tane Piper

Tane Piper shares this comment via Mastodon:

@mguhlin A while back we did this demo of personalisation - as we called it “non-creepy” - it’s something I think a lot about just now, as someone who also hates what the algorithm has become View video of demo (starts at 22m)