"Is it just me, or does it feel as if the Amazon brass decided to spend the holidays in the Caribbean and left in charge of the company a computer that’s fallen head over heels in love with its own algorithms?"
Amazon’s Jungle Logic is a look at the web giant’s latest strategy to attract customers: encourage them to go into bricks-and-mortar stores to see what they might want to buy, and then buy it for cheaper online. It’s something that people have done for years, so you might think the overt acknowledgement is unremarkable. But as the tone of the above quote implies, it might well backfire. This article is just one in which the prevailing opinion seems to be that customers (who do, after all, have brains) are beginning to realize the impacts of their own behavior—and considering doing things differently. In this case, booksellers are beginning to fight back—appropriately enough, through words and thinking rather than through promotions or cost-slashing (a game they’re not likely to win, let’s face it.) As the Nashville bookstore-owner puts it in this piece: “If you like going to a bookstore then it’s up to you to support it. If you like seeing the people in your community employed, if you think your city needs a tax base, if you want to buy books from a person who reads, don’t use Amazon.”
See also another experiment, in which comedian Louis CK put a copy of a live performance up for sale on his website. He added a note for would-be pirates:
“I’d just like you to consider this: I made this video extremely easy to use against well-informed advice. I was told that it would be easier to torrent the way I made it, but I chose to do it this way anyway, because I want it to be easy for people to watch and enjoy this video in any way they want without ‘corporate’ restrictions.”
“Please bear in mind that I am not a company or a corporation. I’m just some guy … I can’t stop you from torrenting; all I can do is politely ask you to pay your five little dollars, enjoy the video and let other people find it in the same way.”
Too soon to say these small experiments signal anything particularly significant in regard to how the economy runs, but I’m always heartened to be reminded of the humanity at the basis of everything. And it seems noteworthy and somehow appropriate that real live people are putting a spanner in the works of algorithms that haven’t been programmed to cope with the caprice and irrationality or plain common sense of human beings.