Human and Robot

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choices that exist on the web? What book to buy? What artists to listen to? What blog posts to read? Everyday we are faced with an overwhelming amount of decisions. As Barry Schwartz points out during his legendary Ted Talk, the choices could actually be making us less happy. How can we bring order to this informational chaos?

About 15 years ago, when I first started listening to electronic music, you would only buy vinyl records. These records could exclusively be bought at a handful of stores. The exciting part was that there was a shipment of records to these stores every week. Hence, you would go there once a week to listen to the latest promos, test presses and other goodies. It was a ritual. I remember distinctively feeling a sense of fulfillment when listening through all the latest tracks. I was one of the first listen to them. Additionally, after I had listened to them all, I felt that I had completed a task: There was no other music to listen to that week.

Today, things are a bit different. I don’t feel that sense of fulfillment when listening to music anymore. I feel overwhelmed. A bit paralyzed, to be honest. There is so much out there. Not only music, but of everything.

“With so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all.” – Barry Schwartz

However, I see a change coming. During the last few years, I have seen an interesting movement. More and more sites such as Svbtle and Convoy are popping up that curate content: Editors carefully select the best articles, photos, and other media to be put in front of their audiences. When you read articles on Svbtle, for instance, you feel that the words have been crafted: a lot of thought has gone into writing, as well as, curating these posts. Similarly, this type of curation is happening in music as well. Pet Sounds, one of the most famous music stores in Sweden, is publishing their record store clerk’s favorite music in Spotify playlists. This is a perfect example of a “partnership between humans and machines”, as Steven Rosenbaum puts it.

Humans are inherently good at crafting and carefully selecting content, computers are amazing at giving us options. Harnessing that relationship is key. How can we use it to its fullest potential?