GOOD

Big Data’s “Paranoid Pop Music” Debut Album

The band’s catchy songs look at the complicated relationship between people and technology

Alan Wilkis, via Twitter

Big data, the concept of both unstructured and structured data used by companies, has been around since about 2001. However, a new musician and producer of the same name is looking to challenge his namesake. Alan Wilkis, who goes by the stage name Big Data, is releasing his debut album, 2.0, in late March, which examines the complicated, tenuous relationship between people and technology.


“With each song on 2.0, I set out to explore a specific issue or moment in technology,” Wilkis told Wired. “And lyrically they are often voiced from the perspective of the ‘bad guy’ in the narrative.”

The album starts off this narrative with the song, “Business of Emotion,” featuring the vocals of White Sea (from M83). The song, according to Big Data’s YouTube video description, was inspired by the 2012 Facebook mood experiment that became public in the summer of 2014. The experiment, run by Facebook, manipulated the newsfeeds displayed to 689,003 Facebook users, showing that it could directly influence what type of content users posted to Facebook themselves. If a user was presented with a negatively skewed newsfeed, they were more likely to post negative statuses, while primarily positive newsfeeds lead to more positive statuses from users.

This news isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, considering that Facebook has to use an algorithm anyway to decide what shows up in a user’s newsfeed. However, it does cause one to pause and consider how our perception of online “reality” is controlled by “big data” and how the reality presented to us can directly impact our mood, most notably and distressingly by causing us to feel more lonely.

“Feel good, make you feel good, I'm looking for emotion. So I know just what to show you, I can see you, see your answers. This business of emotion, yeah I know just what to show you, baby,” White Sea sings amongst heavy bass and techno beats.

There’s a fair chance you’ve already heard of Big Data; their first single, “Dangerous,” featuring Joywave, hit number one on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart in August 2014. It’s a pretty good introduction to Big Data: Big Brother lyrics in conjunction with an ominous and playful bass riff that showcased the band’s “paranoid electronic pop” sound.

“It would be a huge missed opportunity if I didn’t use synthetic sounds. Because it is all man and machine. And that’s what I like about having the guitar being such a part of it. It’s that line between the human and that tech element. That ties to Big Data, the concept. A lot of it is really trying to decipher trends in human behavior and human experience using data. It’s really, really effective at that in a lot of ways,” Wilkis told the Wall Street Journal.

White Sea is one member of the impressive roster of collaborators Wilkis assembled for the album. Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, Twin Shadow, and Kimbra also make appearances on their own tracks, to name a few.

“I had the immense privilege of collaborating with a host of incredible vocalists on 2.0,” Wilkis told Wired, “and at the end of the day I just hope these songs make you smile, dance, and think a bit.”

The album will drop on March 24th, and in the meantime you can listen to selected tracks on Spotify, or the Soundcloud playlist on Wired.

Articles
via Alan Levine / Flickr

The World Health Organization is hoping to drive down the cost of insulin by encouraging more generic drug makers to enter the market.

The organization hopes that by increasing competition for insulin, drug manufacturers will be forced to lower their prices.

Currently, only three companies dominate the world insulin market, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. Over the past three decades they've worked to drastically increase the price of the drug, leading to an insulin availability crisis in some places.

In the United States, the price of insulin has increased from $35 a vial to $275 over the past two decades.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Since the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, whale populations have been steadily recovering. However, whales in the wild still face other dangers. In the summer of 2018, four Russian companies that supply aquariums with marine animals captured almost 100 beluga whales and killer whales (aka orcas). After a public outcry, those whales are swimming free as the last of the captive whales have been released, the first time this many captured whales have been released back into the wild.

In late 2018 and early 2019, a drone captured footage of 11 orcas and 87 beluga whales crammed into holding pens in the Srednyaya Bay. The so-called "whale jail" made headlines, and authorities began to investigate their potentially illegal capture.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Twitter / Bye,Bye Harley Davidson

The NRA likes to diminish the role that guns play in fatal shootings by saying, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Which is the same logic as, "Hammers don't build roofs, people build roofs." No duh. But it'd be nearly impossible to build a roof without a hammer.

So, shouldn't the people who manufacture guns share some responsibility when they are used for the purpose they're made: killing people? Especially when the manufacturers market the weapon for that exact purpose?

Keep Reading Show less
Business
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The 2020 election is a year away, but Donald Trump has some serious ground to cover if he doesn't want it to be a historical blowout.

A Washington Post- ABC News poll released Tuesday shows that Trump loses by double digits to the top Democratic contenders.

Vice President Joe Biden (56%-39%); Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (54%-39%); Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (56%-39%); South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (52%-41%); and Sen. Kamala Harris of California (52%-41%) all have big leads over the president.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics