One Sided Policy Debate—The Science of Literature

On Hack­erNews, this ar­ti­cle was linked. The gen­eral idea is that com­pa­nies are study­ing what peo­ple like to read, to help au­thors pro­duce books that peo­ple like to read.

Now, for me, when I look at this idea, I see some down sides, but I cer­tainly see some benefits as well.

Al­most none of the com­menters on NYTimes seemed to see any benefit what­so­ever to study­ing reader be­havi­our. There were a few who saw the down­sides as more mild than the other com­menters. But most of the com­menters ba­si­cally saw this tech­nol­ogy as some sort of 1984-es­que idea that will turn all books into un­in­ter­est­ing, uni­mag­i­na­tive pieces of pa­per that would bet­ter serve as a door stop­per than as some­thing for liter­ary con­sump­tion. Out of 50 com­ments that I’ve read, only one per­son has said some­thing along the lines of, ‘This tech­nol­ogy can pos­si­bly offer some­thing to help au­thors im­prove their books’.

Is this just techno­pho­bia? Or am I miss­ing some­thing, and this re­ally is a hor­rible, evil tech­nol­ogy that should be avoided at all costs? [That’s a rhetor­i­cal ques­tion—I’d be sur­prised if even one LWian held that po­si­tion]

I guess what I’m ask­ing is, what are the psy­cholog­i­cal roots for the al­most-unan­i­mous aver­sion to this at­tempt at gath­er­ing and us­ing in­for­ma­tion about what peo­ple want?