Last night I had a long ranging conversation with Amy and a pair of close friends about the singularity and the future of human and machine. The conversation centered around the notion of consciousness and what happens if (or – in my opinion – when) non-biological entities have more reasoning and processing power than biological entities, especially if this is combined with the notion of consciousness. We didn’t reach any conclusions, but we made an hour disappear really quickly.
I woke up to a fun blog post from one of my favorite biological entities (Fred Wilson) listing his Top Records of the Decade. I brought up one of my favorite non-biological entities (Pandora) and created a new channel called “Fred Wilson 2000 Decade” that consisted of the artists behind these records (I find it intriguing that Fred calls them “records” instead of “albums” or “CDs” or “disks” – it definitely dates him.) I then tweeted the Fred Wilson 2000 Decade Pandora Station and shared it with him via email. Here’s the response I got from the non-biological entity masquerading as Fred.
From: Fred Wilson
Sent: Monday, December 28, 2009 8:36 AM
To: Brad Feld
Subject: Re: Brad Feld thought you would be interested in this station
Dear Pandora Visitor,
We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allow access to Pandora for listeners located outside of the U.S. We will continue to work diligently to realize the vision of a truly global Pandora, but for the time being we are required to restrict its use. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no other alternative.
We believe that you are in Argentina (your IP address appears to be 188.8.131.52). If you believe we have made a mistake, we apologize and ask that you please contact us email@example.com
If you are a paid subscriber, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will issue a pro-rated refund to the credit card you used to sign up. If you have been using Pandora, we will keep a record of your existing stations and bookmarked artists and songs, so that when we are able to launch in your country, they will be waiting for you.
We will be notifying listeners as licensing agreements are established in individual countries. If you would like to be notified by email when Pandora is available in your country, please enter your email address below. The pace of global licensing is hard to predict, but we have the ultimate goal of being able to offer our service everywhere.
We share your disappointment and greatly appreciate your understanding.
I know Fred is on vacation in Buenos Aires with his family. I even know that they got hosed last night at La Cabrera. Suddenly I was thinking about the mix of human and machine here – Pandora (machine), Geolocation (machine), my knowledge of their vacation (human), their dinner experience (human), the description of their dinner experience (written by a human, coded and transmitted by machine), and Fred’s Records of the Decade List (human, but coded by machine – the post and the music). The level of interaction of human and machine is high, although the level of sophistication is pretty low.
In an effort to be subversive, I forwarded the email to Fred with a note that said “Wild how the music licensing stuff is stupid.” He responded immediately with “Yup. Rights holders fuck everything up.” I wonder what the machines think of that?