Seeking A Higher Algorithm

Seeking a Higher AlgorithmI’ve never been one to announce my New Year’s resolutions, but this year is different. This year I resolve to abolish the whole idea of New Year’s Resolution in favor of “Seeking a Higher Algorithm.” Let’s face it, there is an algorithm for everybody and everything, making us all increasingly predictable. As a marketer I am a contributor to this revolution via the data-driven marketing practice known as “Personalization.” In this week’s Sunday Business section of The New York Times, I was reminded of personalization that targets… me, which I have to admit I found a little irksome.

In the article, “Listen to Pandora, and it Listens Back,” the author, Natasha Singer, discusses how Pandora, the internet radio service, is moving beyond aggregating my “Thumbs Up” rating of songs in order to increasingly serve music to my liking. Not surprisingly, they are now mining my musical data in order to serve me more targeted ads, to improve the quality of my interruptions.

Online ad customization, known as Behavioral Targeting has been around awhile but Pandora, with more than 200 million registered users, has an enormous proprietary database tracking people’s musical usage habits at an individual level. Pandora’s algorithms will correlate my musical tastes and figure out that I am a political independent with a left wing zip code, a Jew with Buddhist leanings, am happily married and other inferences based on lyrics and musical patterns that statistically apply to the many individuals like me. I’m having a passing thought that maybe I’ll go on a Hip-Hop binge or start listenining to Christian Gospel music and really throw them off, but my guess is that like the stock market, I’m in for the long haul and they will seek and find my level.

It’s been the guiding principal of my life and thirty plus year career to take the independent path, to marry a free spirit and be a capitalist, to maintain a foot in the art world but run a business, to be conservative on some issues and liberal on others and never belong to either political party, to follow intellectual pursuits and enjoy B action movies — to avoid being stereotyped. So as the industrial era recedes further in the rearview and technology makes us smarter and faster, I realize that as much as I’ve tried to think unique thoughts and try different things, while I may not have ended up a carbon copy of my neighbor, I’m every bit as predictable.

So this year, I’m going to work on my spiritual life and getting in shape and when I see Groupon ads on my Facebook page for discounts on biking trips to meditation retreats in Thailand, I will have reached a higher algorithm. But first I’d have to spend time on Facebook, which is entirely too predictable.