Consider, for instance, MealTribes. I hadn't even heard about this until very recently. Recently as in yesterday! MealTribes is an app that helps people connect with others and get together at potlucks to make friends. Technology, which created our lonely existence, is now being tapped into for young people--who might have hundreds of virtual friends, but are lonely--to get out into the real world and connect with real people.
Founded by 28-year-old Jared Gold and some friends in 2017, MealTribes bills itself as “a better way to authentically connect with peers nearby.” Prospective diners create a profile on the online platform by answering a brief questionnaire, with some optional questions not unlike those you’d find on a dating site: Are you a “nature lover,” an “advice guru” or a “chef”? If you could live as any person for a day — dead or alive — who would it be? Users then sign up online for either a weeknight dinner or weekend brunch, with six or seven strangers.An "authentic" way of connecting:
MealTribes is capitalizing on something else, too: the so-called “loneliness epidemic” we’re all supposedly experiencing as urban millennials, though we’re way too cool to admit it.Such is life in this algorithmic world!
Algorithms not only are used to connect with people in the real world, but also to shape our tastes--from what we "want" to wear to the trendy foods to whatever:
This impacts not only the artifacts we experience but also how we experience them. Think of the difference between a friend recommending a clothing brand and something showing up in targeted banner ads, chasing you around the internet. It’s more likely that your friend understands what you want and need, and you’re more likely to trust the recommendation, even if it seems challenging to you.
Maybe it’s a particularly shapeless garment or a noisy punk track. If you know the source of the suggestion, then you might give it a chance and see if it meshes with your tastes. In contrast, we know the machine doesn’t care about us, nor does it have a cultivated taste of its own; it only wants us to engage with something it calculates we might like. This is boring. “I wonder if, at the core of fashion, the reason we find it fascinating is that we know there’s a human at the end of it,” Pieratt says. “We’re learning about people. If you remove that layer of humanity from underneath, does the soul of the interest leave with it?”