ipod Shuffle Code Cracked (aka my iPod is Artificially Intelligent)

June 26, 2009

While that title is relevant it is also a double entendre meant to bring the drooling apple fanatics by the thousands. Though they may be quickly disappointed, I still as ever ascribe to the philosophy that any attention good or bad is better than no attention at all.

So: I’ve been listening to my ipod “on the go” playlist on “shuffle” lately, which is as you’ve probably guessed if you’re not already familiar a random play of the 1400+ songs in my music library. What I noticed out of the corner of my ear yesterday and fully consciously today is that while, fer instance, Metallica may have found its way into my heart and therefore my library thanks to choice gems like “kill ‘em all” and “whiplash” and “to live is to die” plus 28 other classics culled from the rest of the first four albums for maximum retro metal headbanging effect, and the band is proportionately underrepresented in relation to other bands (both the number of bands and the number of songs per band) in my library, I still managed in the space of an hour to hear three different songs by the band.

Three songs out of Fourteen hundred is point-two percent. So in an hour had my iPod been adhering to percentages I should have heard no more than approximately six seconds of Metallica. Yet I heard in that hour somewheres in the region of seven to ten relentlessly unrelenting hair-flinging headbanging minutes. Outrageous, I say!

Same with Unsane and Nick Cave yesterday. Not that I don’t love either enough to put them on my last gasp playlist, my death rattle shuffle, but when I say random I mean random and when I don’t get it I start to itch something fierce like fire ants in my socks or tomato juice in my paper cuts.

That’s not random I thought and therefore objected on a core level enough that the symptoms became more like fire ants in the pants or tomato juice in my eyes. But then it dawned on me, and all you mathematicians out there take heed, I’m here to set the record straight: avoiding a pattern is itself a pattern. Randomness must include seeming repetition.

In human terms, if you want to appear not to play favorites you have to play a little bit of favorites so as not to appear to be avoiding the favorite. I trust the iPod to do a little better than that. My meager little willful little mind may be able to muster, calculation- and desirelessness-wise, the semblance of random, but it will always fall shy one horse.

In the rarefied terms of High Art, i.e. the language of Hollywood Hitz, the objection made in “He’s Just Not That Into You,” that guys treating ladies like shit is not (surprise!) in fact a sign that they like you but is actually (reverse surprise!) true, the second-guess double-speak reverse-psychology that really really would in fact have a solid mathematical basis if only we could quiet ourselves like an iPod and not-at-all-randomly randomly play Metallica three times in an hour actually bears some scrutiny: the subtleties required to outhink Deep Blue are probably as subtle as the B in subtle.

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