Meet the Real Me
An intimate tour of my algorithm. Plus, an announcement!
Because the midweek emails only go to paid subscribers, they feel like a safe space—warm, friendly, occasionally candlelit, with an excellent playlist, a la my favorite neighborhood hangout. While I’ll continue to feature interviews, Q&As, and recommendations, I’d also like to share additional writing from time to time, particularly shorter, offbeat, or more personal pieces that don’t neatly translate to full-fledged essays.
Here is one such piece, on something I’ve been pondering lately.
I sometimes think back to a time when I’d never heard the word “algorithm.”
The term dates back to the 9th century, when it was coined by Persian mathematician Muhammad ibin Musa al-Khwarizmi, also known as “the father of algebra.” But algorithm really hit its stride in the current century, with a voracity rivaled only by the spotted lanternfly [NYMag] on every surface in NYC. (Apologies for the local reference, but fellow New Yorkers, I know you feel this.)
I have typically been wary of algorithms, or Algie, as I’ve collectively dubbed them. Like a lot of folks, I don’t relish the idea of anything or anyone tracking my activity, let alone using it to predict my preferences or behavior. I am creeped out when Algie is right (how dare you show me an ad for tacos four minutes after I mention them!) and just as annoyed when it’s wrong.
Over the course of one frustrating season, every device I encountered presented me with a parade of engagement rings, despite the fact that I was involved with a wildly noncommittal person. This was followed by several irritating months where it displayed a vast array of maternity merch (with taglines like, “Still you, just pregnant!”) when I was very much not expecting.
Like an overbearing relative, the algorithm loves to tell me who I “should” be versus who I actually am. But lately! Well, I’m starting to think it gets me.