I don’t really get math. I understand the logistics of how one plus one is two. I get subtraction, multiplication, and division. I’m fuzzier on how a set of numbers and symbols help engineers figure out how to build a sound bridge or how to get an airplane to fly. What I really don’t get are these algorithms.
You go on to Netflix and they can tell you by the way you grade movies which other movies you’d like. You buy a book of poetry on Amazon and somehow the numbers plop out that you’d also enjoy an album by Leonard Cohen. You go on to Pandora and say you like an obscure band like the Kostars and they come up with a radio station straight out of your music collection. The numbers are always right.
What fascinates me is on Facebook they have suggestions on who could be potential friends. Some of the suggestions are obvious in that you have a number of mutual acquaintances, but there are others on my list who live in cities I have never visited and have no one in their circle that could be connected to mine. Perhaps they are just random profiles that Facebook put out there so people won’t feel so alone, but maybe the numbers do know. Just as they are correct in that I like movies by the Coen Brothers and music by Os Mutantes, they also know that William Hines from Apple Valley, South Carolina would tell jokes only I could get or that Ben James from Hatchet City, Michigan would dispense valuable advice any time I found myself in a pickle.
I know there are dating sites out there that claim they find your soul mates, but maybe they could get more specific with these algorithms. Through numbers they could tell you who out there is likely to lend you money, who washes their hands after using the toilet and the people most likely to sleep with you if you buy them one drink.