As I am an artiste of the literary variety, I have an undying faith in the supremacy of humans in art and creativity. While some elephants paint pictures and some apes can type stories, I typically relegate this type of artistry to the level of a three-year-old child. It’s beautiful and wonderful if you love them – otherwise, it’s really so much mess. As for the sci-fi theories and hallucinations about the eventual dominance of the machine mind, I’ve thought of them as just that – dreams and unrealistic theories. Being alive at a time when machines have failed to accurately predict even the next days’ weather, I fail to believe in the ability of other machines to predict art, love, popularity, and any number of other things. They all require an equally broad range of factors taken into account and there are limits, even to machines.
In addition, what happens to personal preference? We’ve seen the way amazon and other websites have taken advantage of correlations between our preferences and those of others to suggest new things we might like. We’ve seen the transformation of marketing from a wide audience (a la the 50s) to a specific narrow range of humanity in a specific area of the media or time slot. We’ve seen models being developed to predict our behavior, but that does not determine our response in every case. I love fruit, especially raspberries, but hate blueberries. Corina loves vegetables, but detests peas, which she calls flavorless and squashy. These things would probably be unpredictable in a general analysis of my eating habits and preferences.
So to the science of predicting new pop favorites and hits is far from perfect. Though many companies are currently using software like Hit Song Science (HSS) to tweak and predict ratings on albums and songs soon to be released, the software remains imperfect. One little test had a hit predicted from a song by Gong, some 70s band that included cows lowing. Yum. Still, it’s interesting that we’re coming to rely on models like this for marketing and analysis. On one hand, it may give more power t the customer, if the indicators are accurate. On the other, does it limit or grow our expression as artists?