I’ve never been a big consumer of TV. In fact, my viewing was so scant until the age of 28 that it was only after I moved out on my own that I realised episodes of a TV series actually had a common story linking them together.
Not much has changed when it comes to my relationship with screen-delivered entertainment – I much prefer music and books. However I did recently sign up to Netflix.
It’s not the first time I’ve experienced algorithm driven content, however it is thus far the most accurate. Despite my low viewing habits, my “things we think you’d enjoy” list reads like Netflix can see directly into my brain.
You get more of whatever watch the most
It seems as though life works on a similar algorithm, giving you more of whatever you tend to be focused on.
Buying a new car? Suddenly everyone around you in traffic is driving that exact same make and model…
Super excited about the upcoming Cure or Ed Sheeran concerts? It seems like every time you turn the radio on their music is playing…
Getting caught up in the depressing ridiculousness that is South African (and world-in-general ) politics? Well, you’re going to see doom-and-gloom everywhere you look…
Although it might seem that way, it’s not exactly magic. It’s simply the fact that when you’re focusing on something specific, you’re already primed to notice things that are similar. As per the algorithm, you’ll get “more of the same”.
“Two men looked out from prison bars. The one saw the mud, the other saw the stars.”
Alan Watts’ famous Story of the Chinese Farmer shows that all events are neutral and it’s our own perception of “good” and “bad” which assign these labels to them. Of course, really amazing things happen in the world, as do really, really crappy things. But it’s usually our own beliefs and prejudices which affect the way we see or experience them.
Netflix uses your viewing history to make the necessary recommendations. In life, the quality of what you’re being given is largely dependent on your interpretation of what you’re already getting on a consistent basis.
It’s pretty easy to screw up the algorithm though. Flip your perceptions on their head. Challenge your belief in a specific approach. In any situation, whether you perceive it as good or bad, ask yourself “what else could this mean”?
Very little is cast in stone. Simply by viewing something differently, you’ll notice a shift in the recommendations. The beauty of the algorithm – both that of streaming services like Netflix and life-in-general – is that you’re largely in control of what you end up with.
So… what are you focused on?