TOP 100 Songs—A Spotify Experiment in Personality

By James Wallace Harris, Tuesday, May 3, 2016

If you selected your Top 100 all-time favorite songs, the ones that define your soul, how many of those songs would you think you shared with your friends? I’ve always loved seeing what albums my friends owned, and if they’d let me, what songs are on their playlists. People are surprisingly unique. I’ve yet to find anyone that shares even five favorite songs with me. Don’t get me wrong, me and my friends often enjoy the same kinds of music, but when it comes to absolute favorites, the songs we choose to form a life-long love affair, those tunes are quite distinctive. Maybe as identifying as fingerprints.

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This is where Spotify comes in. It would be fantastic if Spotify created a permanent playlist in everyone’s account called TOP 100, and encouraged their subscribers to fill it in with the songs that define the music they loved best in their lifetime. Then after a time, start showing us big data statistics. What is the percentage of overlap based on various demographic standards. Am I more likely to overlap with other people born in 1951? Does gender matter? Could Spotify predict where I grew up or my ethnic background? Would it be possible for Spotify to discern my Myers-Briggs type? And if there are incidences of high overlap, would listening to the playlists of those subscribers help me find songs I would love that I’ve never heard?

Conversely, could Spotify fill in our TOP 100 lists automatically from studying our current patterns of play? Or predict our second 100 favorite songs?

Even with millions of users, would they ever find two people with the same songs in their TOP 100 playlist? What would be the statistical odds? (I don’t know, I can’t do that kind of math.) How often would 50% agreement show up? What if the list was based on order? If they applied statistical analysis to the data, would it reveal anything about personality? Would it tell us anything about generational shifts? Are people predictable by their tastes? If they could connect to other databases, would our musical tastes also reveal what we love in books, movies, television shows and other art forms?

My bet, which is only a hunch, would be for age cohorts, the average overlap would be less than 5%.

JWH

Asking Who, What, When, Where, Why and How About Ourselves

By James Wallace Harris, Thursday, February 5, 2015

Most people are too busy with life for self-examination. In youth we have family and school, in adolescence and our twenties we have the biological imperative to get laid and complete a bachelor’s degree, then comes jobs, marriage and kids. Often, it’s not until we retire that we have the time to think about who and what we are, when and where were going, and why and how. Now that I’ve been retired over a year, and have had the time to contemplate these questions, I’m starting to see things differently.

Quite often in life when we meet a new person, we’re asked what we do. I always said programmer. It was an easy answer. Now that I’m retired I can’t say that anymore. I now tell people I’m retired. That’s an easy answer too, but not a good one. When we’re young we’re asked what we want to be when we grow up. When we’re in college we’re asked about our major. But once we get a job, our work defines who we are for decades. Our job description answers who, what, when, where, why and how. But it’s not a good answer.

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Some people like to define who they are by their philosophy. They will say they are Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Republican, Liberal, Vegan, and so on. And like our job label, this is an easy pigeonhole to categorize oneself for others. Yet, when you have all your time free, with no external agency defining who you are, it gets a lot more difficult to answer who, what, when, where, why and how about our personal identity

If you study reality enough you’ll learn that no God defines our purpose , and the multiverse is indifferent to what we choose to be. We literally have the free will to do what we want – if we can throw off our biological impulses. Most of us follow those inner urges to find companionship, sex, social relationships, food, conflict, pleasure, and other bodily cravings. If you can step back from those bio-programs you’ll see your bigger potential. The trouble most people face is the angst of deciding. It’s much easier to hide out from fulfilling our potential by watching television, reading books or eating Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk.

At a very basic level, what we do every day answers who, what, when, where, why and how. At the moment I can say I am a blogger, that is writing this essay at 7:41am CST, 2/5/15  in Memphis, Tennessee, USA, North America, Earth, Solar System, Milky Way, Local Group, Virgo Supercluster, Universe, Multiverse that’s about the philosophical anxiety I’m feeling over what to do with my free time, using Windows Live Writer for WordPress.

Generally we consume our time with family, friends and routines of life, so we don’t think about our existential opportunities. We’re like the animals – amoeba, penguins, rattlesnakes, naked mole rats, bonobos – and focus on business at hand. Our activities keep us from  noticing the huge reality we live in. It’s only when we stop the routines that we notice how far out things truly are. Sometimes visionary writers and artists will remind us, but not that often.

Being self-aware in this vast reality is a tremendous piece of luck. The odds are beyond winning a thousand $300 million sweepstake tickets in a row. It’s a tragedy that we ignore reality. On the other hand, paying attention is the hardest thing we can do.

JWH