Our Pandora/Netflix Relationships
Published: Sunday, September 23, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
"The question therefore is not so much whether we are the masters or the slaves of our machines, but whether the machines still serve the world and its things, or if, on the contrary, they and the automatic motion of their processes have begun to rule and even destroy the world and things" (Arendt, The Human Condition, 151).
In my senior year high school philosophy class, we studied philosopher Hanna Arendt, quoted above, who feared the technology of her time, famously urging us simply to "think what we’re doing." In conjunction with the reading of Arendt, we watched Stanley Kubrick’s
2001: A Space Odyssey, a truly eerie, yet fantastic classic film, which sparked interesting post-viewing discussion in my class. Naturally, after watching the film, neurotic me was horrified.
While the film, at its most basic level, is meant to express the indestructible spirit and free will of the human person and that’s all fine and good, I could not get over the creepy Hal computer who just would not listen to the commands of his astronaut human friend. My mind wandered—what if this happened to our society? What if all our technology, that we developed ourselves as an advanced society, started to have a mind of its own, and talked to us in a monotonous, sassy voice like Hal?
Well my friends, I’m sorry to break it to you in this way, but it already has.
While Arendt was referring to the concerning new development of the atomic bomb, there are clearly more pressing, relevant issues at hand in our day to day lives at Boston College where we are not excluded from this issue of technology. These issues beg pressing, never-ending questions similar to, "Why will I like
Something’s Gotta Give because I have been known to enjoy The Graduate?" "Why, after hearing ‘Heart Shaped Box’ by Nirvana am I suddenly listening to ‘Here Without You’ by 3 Doors Down against my will?"
Our atomic bomb is Netflix, and its evil cousin, Pandora. These are essentially robots that we utilize in our everyday lives that have a mind of their own and assume they know the things we will like and dislike. But of course, the hoi polloi don’t care. They don’t realize the threat here.
Anyway, yes, I use Pandora and Netflix.
Music and movies are beautiful bits of art that make our cultural lives voluminous and profound. They are issues close to my heart (I divide my time between the Features section and Arts & Review), so I hate to think of them as being commodified or quantified somehow by these two malicious robots who presume to make pretty significant judgment calls about what we, as humans, will adore or detest.
Netflix and Pandora, back off.
Pandora, don’t assume that my love for The Velvet Underground means that I equally love Muse. Hole’s Courtney Love and Amy Winehouse are not one and the same. Making a Tyler, the Creator of Odd Future Pandora station doesn’t somehow translate to me liking Wiz Khalifa, and they should not ever be played on the same station. They’re completely different. Maybe those associations fly in the robot world, but not in mine. Lana del Rey isn’t Nelly Furtado.
Netflix, don’t demean me by labeling me simply as a girl who enjoys "Witty Independent Dramas with a Strong Female Lead," "Critically Acclaimed Visually Striking Dark Movies " or "Cerebral Independent Films." I’m more than that. Don’t put me in a box. Sometimes I might just want to watch old episodes of
Teen Mom. You can’t predict my every move.
I guess that’s what Kubrick was trying to article in
2001, kind of … it’s very human of me to get a sick pleasure from thumbs downing on Pandora or boldly clicking "Not Interested" to my No. 1 computer-calculated movie suggestion on Netflix.
Take that, Hal.