Monday, October 16, 2017

Playlist without algorithms

Remembered Music: Abdulmalik Dyck, Alki Keeler, Daud Khan, Sheikh Hassan Dyck
In the Light of Air by Anna Thorvaldsdottir: International Contemporary Ensemble
Ravi Shankar: The Living Room Sessions: Ravi Shankar, Tannoy Bose, Kenji Ota, Barry Philips
The Beauty of Disaster: J. Peter Schwalm
If Man But Knew: The Habibiyya
Jonathan Harvey String Quartets and String Trio: Arditti Quartet
Synaygia: Ross Daly, Rufus Cappadocia, Girogos Symeonidis, Chemirani Trio
Edmund Rubbra Symphonies 6 & 8: Norman del Mar, Philharmonia Orchestra
Songs and Guitar Pieces by Theodorakis: Maria Farandouri and John Williams
Jetsun Mila: Eliane Radique
That is just some of the music I listened to recently on my iPod when visiting the remote Greek island of Gavdos. By choice during three weeks of travelling I did not have access to email, Facebook, Twitter or other online services. That experience reinforced my concerns about our 'always connected' existence and prompted my recent article deploring the online controls exercised over musical life and, indeed, over the whole of our lives.

It is a bitter irony that my rant against algorithms and free content reached a spectacularly large audience - see sidebars - largely due to being picked up by the algorithms of Flipboard and other free content aggregators. Mea culpa; but this massive readership, by far the largest in the blog's thirteen year history, and an overwhelmingly positive response prove that my concerns about algorithmically defined comfort zone are shared by a very large number of people. The network has failed us. Or more accurately we have encouraged the network to fail us by allowing Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al to control our lives. This was brought home to me at the end of my recent off-grid travels. Also staying in our quirky little hotel in Chania favoured by independent travellers were a young Canadian couple. Each morning they appeared for breakfast with their heads buried in their smartphones, and that is how they stayed throughout the meal with not so much as a word being exchanged between them. In fact I believe they were communicating with each other by sending emails across the table.



The Internet originated as a transactional tool and it still has huge value as such. But today it has also become a social tool, or more accurately a social crutch and social drug. Addiction to the social media drug is used by online gatekeepers to generate obscene levels of tax-free profits by selling personal data. Please remember when watching the 'free' YouTube video of Simon Rattle conducting an exquisite performance of the Damnation of Faust that there is no such thing as 'free' content. You are paying dearly for your classical music fix by allowing Google, which owns YouTube, to sell your intimate personal data to the highest bidder. When sharing the next selfie on Facebook please remember Whole Earth Catalog publisher Kevin Kelly's observation that on social media "vanity trumps privacy". And that is not an exaggeration: the celebrated Max Schrems case uncovered that Facebook retained for algorithmic profiling 1200 pages of data in 57 categories on just one person. Among the data was deleted content including photos, and email addresses culled from the address books of Max Schrems' friends.

Wisdom traditions such as Buddhism, Sufism and esotericists such as Gurdjieff all stress the importance of direct experience; that is experience without intermediation. When asked if he was a god Gautama Buddha replied no he was not a god, he was simply a man who had awakened. But humankind is becoming a race of zombies who spend their lives sleepwalking under the control of their online masters. As William James explained, our brain and indeed our souls are hardwired to seek direct experience of higher levels of consciousness. This need transcends any religious beliefs, and is the reason why art in general and music in particular are so important. All forms of intermediation such as selective algorithms and filter bubbles short-circuit the neural circuits that enable this vital direct experience. The very wise Jiddu Krishnamurti told us: "You have to be your own teacher and your own disciple. You have to question everything that man has accepted as valuable, as necessary". Thank you for being receptive to my views, stay awake and do enjoy exploring my serendipitous playlist without algorithms.



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1 comment:

Otterhouse said...

Couple of years ago I started this
http://classicalspotify.blogspot.nl
Just for fun. I hope more people want to share their playlists!
Thanks for your list!

Greetings,
Rolf