26 March 2000

God invented people because he loves stories.

I've quoted this before. Yesterday it dawned on me that stories are my drug of choice. For escape from pain and reality there is nothing-- not sex, nor drugs, nor alcohol, nor even chocolate malts-- the equal of a well-told story. And I am addicted.

I have a houseful of books. And, the other night when I needed to escape for a while, I pulled my hardcover copy of Lost Horizon from the bookcase next to my bed, and lost myself again in Conway's adventure...

Addicted is what I am. The other night I was lucky and the Lost Horizon fix worked. But on other nights, I can't find what I need among, literally, thousands of books. Some nights I need more. And I despair of finding what I need.

There is now a thing called Collabrative Filtering, or Recommended Systems which is beginning to be used, and it may help. According to Jester: The Online Joke Recommender, "It is a method for making personalized recommendations to the system user based on their likes and dislikes as indicated by their ratings of a set items and the ratings of others in the past. The user becomes associated with a "nearest neighbor". Items which have been rated highly by the nearest neighbor are then recommended to the user."

I do have great hopes that soon these "Recommending Systems" will become widely used to help us addicts find new books to satisfy our cravings. There are so many books published every day that it is impossible to find the time to sift through them all. And books are so expensive that I certainly can't afford to take a chance on a book by an author unknown to me. No matter how good the reviews, or how well-known the reviewer, or how attractive and appealing the cover, one simply can not trust that the insides will be satisfying.

But with this new profiling technology, there is an excellent chance that I, and other addicts, will be able to find books we would otherwise never have known existed. And we could indulge our every mood with exactly the right story. Escape.

And heretofore unknown authors would be found. And they would gain wider audiences than they had previously hoped they could have. In fact, this technology would do so much for book sales that I am surprised that the publishing houses haven't put up profiling sites yet. Ask me how many books I would buy, sight unseen, if only I could be fairly sure that I would enjoy them. And how many movies would I watch if I knew which ones to rent. And how much music--

But, perhaps, it is not such a good thing. How much time would I waste indulging my addiction? And where would I get the money to support my addiction were I to waste more precious time in reading?

This could be a real problem.

I wonder if god is an addict, too.


Copyright © 2000 New Moon



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