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Tag: shopping

This website was archived on July 20, 2019. It is frozen in time on that date.
Exolymph creator Sonya Mann's active website is Sonya, Supposedly.

Anti-Nausea Luxury Engineering

Photo by JD Hancock.

Photo by JD Hancock.

A human is a complex and finicky device. You can’t just buy one and let it be. They need daily care and maintenance. A responsible owner also has to keep an eye out for patches — security updates and plugins for boosted functionality are available frequently. It’s important to stay current! Listen, I’m not trying to discourage you. Just consider your level of commitment before making a purchase. These are very special gadgets.

You’re visiting us for the first time today, right? We encourage first-time companion buyers to start with a basic model. Don’t worry, you can always trade it in for credit when you’re ready to upgrade to one of the high-spec humans! Get your sea legs, so to speak. No, really, we’ve engineered nausea out of the latest genomic algorithm. Many of our clients take their humans sailing. We’re even considering a communal cruise! Let me know if you’re acquainted with any good yacht brokers.

My apologies, sir, I’m getting off-topic. Tell me what features you’re looking for.

Ahh, that’s a common request. Yes, we have a variety of decorative options. But we can’t replicate your dead wife! Ha! Strictly joking, of course. I’ve been skimming a history module about proto-human marriage rituals. Norms were very much changing before we came along and upended their world. Poor little guys.

Do you want to tour the showroom? We’ve got some real beauties in the shop right now! Don’t take what I said about starting with a basic model too seriously — as long as you’re willing to put in the time… It’s very rewarding! I can show you a few testimonials from our other clients. They’re very pleased with their humans.


Amazon has a whim machine bolted onto their ecommerce system. The recommendation engine is a combination of practical — “Other people who bought X also bought Y” — and bemusingly enthusiastic: “You clicked on X before so I bet you’d really like ALSDJFLKSAJF too! Wow, look at all those letters! Notice how they’re in the same alphabet as X? Pretty impressive, huh?” It’s bad at nuance but it’s good at throwing out options. There are so many options for it to scan and suggest.

This stock photo amuses me. Image via Robbert Noordzij.

This stock photo amuses me. Image via Robbert Noordzij.

Businesses need to solve hard problems in order to be successful. Shopping on Amazon is cheap and convenient and they have a vast array of goods. Selling things cheaply without collapsing is a hard problem, and so is convenience, and so is being stocked with lots of products. Amazon conquered all three challenges. Now the benefits feed into each other. Customers love the cheapness and convenience, so sellers must stock their storefronts. Sellers are much easier to aggregate than customers, so once you figure out the customer bit, you’re golden.

Superstar internet businesses — and I guess most high-value companies in general — are all about positive feedback loops. Circular incentives that channel energy from initial success to intermediate success to dominance.

When you search for something on Google, you make Google better by feeding data into their algorithm, and your presence incentivizes both websites and advertisers to cater to this particular search engine. You come back because the algorithm is so good at presenting the information you want. Websites worry about SEO and advertisers drop $$$$$ because that excellent algorithm keeps pulling you back. The incentive structure is great for Google. That ingenious feedback loop made them dominant and it keeps them dominant.

Fast forward to 2037 when we’re surfing Amagooglezon (or whatever supplants them) with our heads swimming in VR buckets. We’ll bounce from product to product, purchasing and appraising and reviewing and returning and diving into on-demand experiences. I wonder how recommendation systems will work then — maybe they’ll have personalities. Maybe we’ll fall in love with them. Maybe we’ll hate them. Maybe our wallets will be managed by AI assistants and none of this will matter.

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