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John Eklund writes in Inversion magazine about the marketing of books, including some observations about automated recommendations:

When I consider purchasing a book online, I’m supplied
by a shopping algorithm with a list of what else I might like,
based on what I have bought or what other people “like
me” bought.

… the “customer-recommends”
algorithm removes the pesky human from the interaction. And
it does the exact opposite of what it claims to do: far from
expanding my reading horizon, it contracts it. It doesn’t
show me new worlds, it tries to duplicate as closely as possible
the reading world I’m stuck in. When I’m offered
“more like this” I want to scream NO! Not more
like that. More like something else entirely, more like some
other reader I’m nothing like, more like some new and
different experience.

He sums up,

We are awash in great books, more than we could possibly
read. I have to laugh when I hear people bemoan a lack of
quality, or say things like “What a lousy season for
fiction.” To access the literary wealth we have to step
outside the paradigm of the Corporate New, where we are marketing
targets, and instead create for ourselves a Personal New,
a truly custom-designed inventory of the found, the overheard,
the stumbled-upon and the forgotten. Superb books are plentiful
in every bookstore and library. While the commercial publishing
conglomerates chase the next mega-selling piece of fundamentalist
pornography, literary treasures and surprises await those
with open eyes and ears.

Link: Don’t Point that Ad at Me: the business of books is bad for reading via  goodreports.net.

Kurzweil’s “health” books — is he out of his mind?

Maybe those 250 supplements he takes a day are messing with his brain…

I liked The 10% Solution to a Healthy Life — (I thought) a very sensible and useful description of how to take advantage of the latest science on heart disease, among other things.

When I spotted his new book, Fantastic Voyage : Live Long Enough to Live Forever, I figured he’d just brought 10% up to date.  But no, this is full-on "live forever through genetic enhancement and robots in your veins" propaganda, and some of the practices he recommends (for today) sound dangerous to me.  Without even thinking about all the practical and ethical issues involved in living forever, what kind of hubris does it take to think the world needs you around forever?

His next book sounds even loonier (The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, due April 2005 according to Amazon).  I guess he’s bought into the whole singularity cult nonsense now.

Kurzweil is undoubtedly brilliant and deserves immortality as much as any of us; I just wish he’d go back to inventing synthesizers.