Spotify Wrapped Demonstrates How AI Can Capture the Paradoxical Irony of What It Means to be Human

Has Spotify torched your smug sense of music too?


December begins the season of roundups, listicles and articles declaring the best and worst of the year. Add in the end of the decade and these countdowns are coming out fast and furiously. The release of Spotify Wrapped has created endless memes and sparked furious debates in pop culture. Some users were surprised to see their music choices bluntly laid out before them, while others felt very seen. Ha! And more than a few were mortified by their choices.

Oh, the shame, the shame that is my life

It’s interesting that Spotify’s AI can be adept at skillfully picking up on the emotional context behind songs (2019 breakup, much?), while simultaneously spectacularly missing the mark for others. Spotify, the massive data company, seems to have completely missed seeing the trees through the forest, with regards to some of their customers, like the ones who use their service to stream sleep music. These users received hilariously earnest results, but in reality, their feedback was an illumination of the pitfalls behind AI technology. 

Et tu, Apple?

As entertaining and sometimes as poignant as it can be to see our favorite songs curated, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Spotify collects reams of our data (so they should be good at predicting what we like). They aren’t the only tech company in 2019 who flexed their data muscle at consumers. The disastrous launch of the Apple credit card was a dystopian peek into the future, with mysterious algorithms devoid of oversight. Apple, the tech behemoth with troves of our data, managed to create and ship an algorithm with breathtaking sexism

The 2020s can be expected to bring about impressive advances in technology, but AI still seems to require much more progress in order to deeply understand people.

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