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Runaway Recommendation Engine

Runaway Recommendation Engine

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Ryan Johnson for NPR
For many people, checking their smartphone can be addicting.
Ryan Johnson for NPR

Recommendation systems like Netflix's or Spotify's have revolutionized the way we discover new things. They were built to help us find what we'll like faster and with less friction. Now, we don't even have to search for something that will fit our tastes: algorithms can pool information from millions of users to create better recommendations, tailored perfectly to us. Or ... perfectly enough. As these systems become more and more sophisticated, it's becoming less clear who is influencing whom.

Today on the show: The rise of the recommendation. How machines figure out the things we want, and how they might be changing what we want.

Music: "Work It Out," "This Is Not 1981," and "Scanner."

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