Tuesday, November 25, 2008

million dollar baby

I don't know if I've mentioned my old friend and roommate Chris Volinsky before ... but I will be mentioning him a lot more often now. Because the dude went and got himself profiled in the NY Times over the weekend! Boo yah!

It seems that Chris, who is also known as CTV and who works as some type of smart employee for AT&T in New Jersey, has been competing in a contest sponsored by Netflix. The challenge is to improve Netflix's "recommendation engine," which is a computer program designed to read your mind and figure out what other movies you might like when you choose one. All manner of computer scientists and tech wizards and so forth have been competing at this thing, and for a good reason: the grand prize is a cool $1 million. Chris hasn't said what he's going to do with the money if he wins, but I do hope that part of his plans will be helping a brother out.

Chris and his ad hoc team from AT&T were in 1st place for a while, but apparently they got thrown off track by "Miss Congeniality." Is it a crime thriller? Comedy? Chick flick? They couldn't figure it out, in spite of their combined Ph.D brain wattage. So now they're playing catch-up, I guess.

I would like to wish them well, except there's just one problem: I am viscerally opposed to what they're doing! Remember the movie "Terminator?" Remember how they made the computers so smart that they finally figured out that mankind was obsolete, and declared war on mankind? And sent Arnold Schwarzenegger back in time to knock off Linda Hamilton? Well, I am totally against anything that's going to bring us closer to that point. Oh, and "War Games." Remember that movie? Matthew Broderick? Same type of scenario. It could happen so easily.

And also, should we really be strengthening the hand of these upstart Internet companies like Netflix, that only deal with customers through the mail? What's going to happen to the small neighborhood businesses that keep our communities glued together, like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video? Did you think about that before unleashing your nefarious talents, Chris?

I just realized something: now Chris knows that I like "Terminator." Great, just great! Why should I even bother picking out my own DVD's anymore? He's probably already compiled a list of all my potential favorites ...

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