So I tapped on a headline in the Apple News app on my iPad that promised a timeline of the universe condensed into 10-minute time-lapsed video. I was expecting something like Carl Sagan quality; but alas, there was but one Carl Sagan who is no more, and the video was a disappointing clutter. Of course this post isn’t really about that video. It’s all about what happened afterward.

The video of the universe was connected to YouTube that presents suggestions for videos that might be interesting to watch next. Looking over the suggestions, I was attracted to one that showed a time-lapse map of the human population from our assumed evolutionary beginnings to the present, so I tapped on that one. YouTube opened up in Safari and played the video, which I think was pretty good. It not only had the places where human populations were known to exist marked on the map with their densities, it also had color coded areas of empires. The intention of the video, which was made clear at the end, was conservation oriented, but I think global history buffs might find it mildly entertaining.

I think there is something wrong with YouTube though. Because if you’re interested in cosmology and global history, its algorithm somehow concludes that you will also be interested in the region of Samaria, and not from a social science perspective either. Instead, it appears to conclude that you must be a lemming wearing a tinfoil hat and you need to see videos that tell you everything you’ve ever believed about human history is completely false simply because the very first civilization believed that aliens genetically engineered humans as a slave class, and floods you with content that goes way beyond conspiracy. We’re not talking about just one or two of these. There was not a single legitimately scientific video in on the sheet of suggestions.

While I find the ancient Samarian religion mildly interesting from a historical perspective, it’s puzzling why a flood of these obviously wild and absurd videos are shoved in my face. If it warranted a rational response, I would say that the religion itself suffers from the same credibility problems as any other state religion, past or present, and anything seen or heard in that respect should be taken with an economy-sized box of table salt. But this algorithm probably isn’t about religion or my interests at all. And if not about that, I wonder what it is about. I suppose as long as it’s not a video of a Russian telling me to vote Trump, it’s legit. Argh!

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