Once upon a time, you bought a blue sweater because some fashion editors in a tastefully modern conference room decided blue was in for spring; now, you buy a blue sweater because your Echo Look scored blue more highly than green for you. What happens to taste when machines become the tastemakers? At Racked, Kyle Chayka meditates on style, algorithms, and our generic yet lullingly unobjectionable future.

Now YouTube tells me which videos to watch, Netflix serves me TV shows, Amazon suggests clothes to wear, and Spotify delivers music to listen to. If content doesn’t exist to match my desires, the companies work to cultivate it. The problem is that I don’t identify as much with these choices as what I once pirated, discovered, or dug up. When I look at my Spotify Discover playlists, I wonder how many other people got the exact same lists or which artists paid for their placement. I feel nostalgic for the days of undifferentiated .rar files loading slowly in green progress bars. There was friction. It all meant something.

To be fair, this content consumption was also extremely unethical. And it’s not like I don’t like Netflix shows or Spotify playlists. Like cigarettes or McDonald’s, they were designed for me to like them, so of course I like them. It’s just that I don’t always like that I like them.

Read the essay