May 30, 2024

Image for article titled The algorithm: Letters of recommendation

Illustration: Vicky Leta

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Bought something you don’t need from an ad? Blame it on the algorithm. Disappointing singles on your dating app? Blame it on the algorithm. Come across a post that hits too close to home? Yep, it’s the algorithm. But what exactly is the algorithm, and when did it start shaping how we live digitally? We track the making of the algorithm — starting with ancient Babylonians and Greek mathematicians — to understand the forces filtering what we stream, shop, and see online today. Read the full transcript here.


Gabriela Riccardi is news editor at Quartz and the host of Season 7 of the Quartz Obsession podcast. She’s obsessed with zinemaking, depression glass, and Carole King karaoke.

Bruce Gil is a staff writer at Quartz. He’s obsessed with Drag Race, telenovelas, and JustSalad.

Show notes

The Netflix Prize

Algorithms can’t fix societal problems—and often amplify them

The magic that makes Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlists so damn good

Filterworld: How Algorithms Flatten Culture by Kyle Chayka


The Quartz Obsession is produced by Ready Freddie Media, with additional support from executive editor Susan Howson and head of video David Weinstein. Our theme music is by Taka Yasuzawa and Alex Suguira. This episode was recorded at G/O Media headquarters in New York.

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