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What is Big Data, exactly?
Maybe Big Data himself — a.k.a. Brooklyn-based producer/composer Alan Wilkis — describes it best: "Big Data is a paranoid electronic music project from the Internet, formed out of a general distrust for technology and The Cloud (despite a growing dependence on them)."
The darker side of digital is front and center in Big Data's new video, "The Business of Emotion" (feat. White Sea). The song was inspired by Facebook's controversial mood experiments on unwitting users. Watch on as pop dancers are overtaken by a evil virus. And no, that is not actually your computer glitching ... or is it?
See also: Facehawk Turns Your Facebook Timeline Into a Music Video
This self-aware contradiction — society can't live with tech, but can't live without it — is a reoccurring sequence for Big Data. 2014's "Dangerous" (feat. Joywave) , which topped Billboard's Alternative Songs Chart about a year ago, explores online privacy concerns. Debut album 2.0, which features collaborations with Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, Kimbra and more, also delves into the darkest crevices of our perhaps-too-connected existences.
In honor of Big Data's brand new music video, Mashable talked to the man behind the screen. From his collaboration with White Sea to the impending demise of the human race at the hands of A.I., we'd say we covered the gamut. And if you can’t get enough, take note: Big Data will be special guest on RAC’s Going On Our Own Way tour this fall.
Image: Photo credit: Leo Pia
The YouTube description for the audio version of "The Business of Emotion" reads, "The song was inspired by the notorious Facebook mood experiments." Tell us why these experiments spoke to you, and how you brought these themes to life.
When writing Big Data songs, I'm always on the lookout for intriguing stories in technology. Each song's lyrics are inspired by some kind of significant moment in tech, but I try to obscure the lyrics just enough that the listener might hear them as more of a generic pop song, if they aren't listening closely.
With "The Business of Emotion," the Facebook mood experiment was an irresistible subject matter. I felt deeply unsettled when I first read about it — it really bothered me that somewhere up the chain at Facebook, someone had to say, "Yep, this is an okay thing to do."
I initially came up with the concept for the video by envisioning the machine of the music industry, and specifically pop music, as similarly manipulative. Pop songs are often Frankensteined together in an incredibly scientific manner, by teams of writers and producers, often drawing on the latest proven methods. For example, the "oh oh way oh" that seemed to follow every chorus in every pop song at one point in time.
Similarly, pop music videos over the last several decades have employed tried-and-true methods to market those songs, and none is arguably more popular than the choreographed-dance video.
Collaborations are a huge part of what Big Data does. How was the collaboration with White Sea born?
I've been a big fan of White Sea's for quite some time, ever since her work with M83. When the opportunity arose to work with her, it was a no-brainer.
In your opinion, what’s the absolute scariest thing about tech (and/or our relationship to it) today? What's your top fear for the future?
Something that scares me today about technology is the extent to which we are increasingly "turning our brains off" in performing an increasing number of daily activities. We are relying on our brains less and less in our lives, and allowing computing to do the work. A basic example of this is a decreased emphasis on the role of memory, as a result of the limitless information available via the Internet.
My absolute biggest fear for the future is the extinction of the human race at the hands of artificial intelligence. This potential threat is arguably closer to the present day than many realize, and I am terrified that the appropriate safeguards are not being put into place quickly enough to prevent this scenario. This is a concern that is frequently echoed by many of today's greatest minds, and it keeps me up at night.