Strange Algorithms

I know that everything I do online is being watched by someone. That is just part of modern life, and I am too lazy to make myself harder to track.

After all, I have nothing to hide. Sometimes though I do wonder about the brainpower of those following me around the internet. Their actions don’t always make sense.

As I understand it, advertising I see online is based on my browsing history. There is some sort of mathematical formula, an algorithm, that analyzes my behaviour and makes sure I see ads that will interest me.

That is the theory. Practice is somewhat different.

I make purchases from Amazon fairly frequently. There are no stores in Sulzburg, so shopping online makes sense.

Amazon pays close attention to me as I browse its website. I get regular emails from them about items I have looked at but not purchased. I presume the idea is that if I like something enough to look, maybe all I need is a nudge and I’ll buy it.

That make sense to me, though my shopping habits are such that if I don’t buy an item the first time I look at it, a reminder email won’t make a difference.

What doesn’t make sense is some of the items Amazon thinks I may have an interest in, items that are definitely not based on anything I have looked at on the site.

For example, recently I was alerted to a “Climbing rope for kids, outdoor and indoor” for only $28.99 (plus taxes of course). The chances of my buying something like that are less than zero. Some of my worst memories of gym class in school involve the climbing rope.

Or in my case the non-climbing rope. All my classmates could scamper up the thing. I never could. There is no way I would subject any child of my acquaintance to such a m instrument of torture. Whatever bit of artificial intelligence that thought I would be interested in this was more artificial than intelligent.

I suppose the miniature bike pump might make more sense, if I owned a bike. No idea why Amazon thought I needed a pump.

Maybe the electric insect killer would be useful, given that I have complained here about there being no screens on German windows. But how did Amazon know that? Is there someone from the company reading my posts? It seems unlikely. Anyway, my fly swatter was a lot cheaper and is probably just as effective.

Every so often you read about breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, that machines are getting closer to being able to truly think. Judging by what communications I am receiving from Amazon, I don’t believe it.


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