Do you go out of your way to step on crunchy leaves?

Via NPR comes a site called hunch, a customized product recommendation engine based on questions it asks about your every opinion, peeve, and whim.

Like, “can you name all the planets in the solar system?” (No.)

At first, I thought the site was dumb and creepy.

“When you stay at an out-of-town friend’s house overnight, what do you tend to do to your bedsheets the next morning?” (Make the bed.)

But eventually the site sort of grew on me. It felt as though someone actually cared about the first thing I’d do with $1 million dollar check from winning the lottery. (Pay off my mortgage, which I took to be the nearest facsimile to my real choice, paying off my student loans, which was not an option.)

Someone cares about the stupid stuff I do!

But the larger purpose of Hunch slowly started to set in, after answering an exhausting bout of questions. Hunch is just another crumb from the American pie of dreams: a clever way to sell you things while making you feel special and exactly like everyone else at the same time.

(For instance, Hunch knows I like good coffee and live in a city so it suggests Stumptown, a company who pays for the privilege of being recommended.)

It’s a terribly clever business model, but at the end of the day it brings out the worst in the Internet, which distills everything down to an algorithm; takes the mystery out of life; and makes it feel like the only point of my existence is to buy stuff I don’t need to send a message to the culture at large that I’m hip, I care about the environment, and that I liked taking notes in school because it helped me learn.