A while back, I downloaded an audio version of Justice Breyer’s lecture at Yale Law School entitled Future: Will the People Follow the Court?. You can watch the whole thing here:
Anyway, I listened to the lecture, referenced it once or twice in class, and then promptly filed it away in my mental archives. In other words, I forgot about it.
But Google didn’t. Apparently, when I downloaded the audio file onto my phone, the Google Music app pulled the file into its orbit. And because I played the file a lot (it’s long, so I stopped and restarted a few times) Google apparently thought that I really liked the file. And, perhaps most surprisingly, because the file was an .mp3 saved to my phone, Google assumed that this hour-and-a-half lecture by a Supreme Court Justice was a song.
So what did Google do when it thought I really liked this song? It created a recommended playlist with other songs that I might like, based on my interest in Justice Breyer’s lecture. I have no idea how Google came up with these particular recommendations. (The feature is called an “Instant Mix.”) But I do know that, according to Google, if you’re into Justice Breyer, then you’ll also love these songs:
What insights do these songs provide into future Supreme Court jurisprudence? What clues can we glean from Google’s analysis, which equates Justice Breyer’s thoughts on statutory interpretation with songs by PJ Harvey, Tori Amos, Shearwater, and Bon Iver? Does the inclusion of Sarah Jaffe’s Wreaking Havoc portend a vote to grant cert. in Halbig?
If Big Data cannot answer these questions, what is it good for?