What my YouTube recommendations tell me

I just went to YouTube, and it is recommending these videos to me:

  • Snowstorm & Crackling Fireplace Sounds
  • Milan, Italy, Walking Tour
  • Dueling Professors — John Lennox & Peter Atkins

Right up my alley! Of course, YouTube knows this because I watch this sort of thing all the time. During the lockdown, a cozy cabin with snow falling outside is my home office, and European walking tours and mountain hikes are my getaways. And who doesn’t love dueling professors?!

I’m sure this also happens to you — on streaming services, shopping sites, social media, and any systems that use those algorithm whatsits. Here’s the same thing, and then more of the same thing. When you’re done with that, here’s more of the same thing. This is great, except when it happens with the ideas that we’re exposed to.

If we live on autopilot, sameness will compound. It might even start to seem as though no other ideas exist, because they’re not showing up in our feeds. We can be remotely aware of diverse ideas, but we’re not likely to hear much about them. We just get more and more of the same. And then more of the same.

Of course, this can happen outside of technology, as well. The friends we hang out with. The books we read. The radio stations we listen to. The newspapers and magazines we subscribe to. If we’re not deliberately seeking out competing ideas, they’re not likely to come our way.

I listen frequently to a professor, philosopher, and theologian (that’s not three people; he’s one brilliant, interesting person). Recently I watched a video in which he’s not just speaking; he’s debating someone who has a different worldview from his own (and my own). It reminded me that I need to be deliberate in exploring knowledge I don’t have and views I don’t hold.

If our agenda is to keep knowing what we already know and believing what we already believe, we can stay in our cozy snowglobes and let sameness compound. If our goal is to learn and grow, we should seek out new and different ideas. Let’s get out of autopilot and live thoughtfully. That’s my recommendation. Meanwhile, YouTube recommends I watch “Three Hours of Christmas Music”. Gotta go.

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