On the oth­er hand, no one — not even Yellin — is quite sure why there are so many alt­gen­res that fea­ture Ray­mond Burr and Bar­bara Hale. It’s inex­plic­a­ble with human log­ic. It’s just some­thing that hap­pened. I tried on a bunch of dif­fer­ent names for the Per­ry Mason thing: ghost, grem­lin, not-quite-a-bug. What do you call the some­thing-in-the-code-and-data which led to the exis­tence of these micro­gen­res? The vex­ing, remark­able con­clu­sion is that when com­pa­nies com­bine human intel­li­gence and machine intel­li­gence, some things hap­pen that we can­not under­stand. “Let me get philo­soph­i­cal for a minute. In a human world, life is made inter­est­ing by serendip­i­ty,” Yellin told me. “The more com­plex­i­ty you add to a machine world, you’re adding serendip­i­ty that you couldn’t imag­ine. Per­ry Mason is going to hap­pen. These ghosts in the machine are always going to be a by-prod­uct of the com­plex­i­ty. And some­times we call it a bug and some­times we call it a fea­ture.”

How Net­flix Reverse Engi­neered Hol­ly­wood — Alex­is C. Madri­gal — The Atlantic

This piece on Netflix’s alt­gen­res is a sol­id bit of report­ing on the inter­sec­tion of tech and cul­ture, although it nev­er real­ly gets very adventurous—until the very end. Per­ry Mason as an emer­gent prop­er­ty of the service’s hybrid approach to rec­om­men­da­tions. Just deli­cious.

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Kars Alfrink

Kars is a designer, researcher and educator focused on emerging technologies, social progress and the built environment.