Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Have we lost our love of serendipity ??

I have always been very motivated to broaden my horizons and learn as much as I can about different topics. Some could say it is a bit of an obsession. The internet over the past five years has enabled me to do this at lighting speed. Which is all well and good but there is a problem on the horizon that might restrict this.

They say that your cognitive learning abilities begin to decrease from the age of 27 as you become more habitual and you begin to lose your sense of discovery. The problem is that now our laziness is going to be controlled by the algorithm.

>The video above is from Eli Pariser who believes that facebook, google and applications across the net are creating a filter bubble that will go against what the web was intended for. He believes it was created to introduce us to new people and help us find new perspectives. Which I agree with and have rather been enjoying over the past few years. The problem is, as the web becomes more personalised you could argue it becomes more isolating. He makes a great point that in a broadcast society we were controlled by the editors of choice... like Mr Murdoch. The internet was supposed to bring us freedom. But 'the torch has been passed' onto the algorithm. The flow of information can be somewhat controlled under the guise of YOU. It's what you and your friends want right. But in the light of Mr Jobs... we dont know what we want. Here is a great quote from the inventor Mr Tim Berners Lee

'The filter bubble phenomenon, I think that noun is applied to the idea that a search engine can get to know you and so it can get to know the source of things it thinks you’re interested in. You will end up in a bubble because you will reward the search engine — you will go to the search engine — it feeds you things which you’re excited about and happy about and it won’t feed you things which get you thinking.'

This has all sorts of implications for the concept of democracy and everything that the free flow of information stands for. But instead of tackling that issue I am going to address something a little closer to home that I think affects most people who stop by here and people who want to live in what I see as a more fulfilling life. Eli talks about a problem that Netflix had to address in their subscribers in the difference between the perception of the person you want to be in the future vs the reality of you now. It is the difference between a functional understanding of a person vs their little eccentricities that make them who they are.

I believe this connects nicely with one of the key elements of creativity. A person you walk past on the street, an image you take of someone interesting, a comment a person makes in passing, someone telling a story through their art. These small serendipitous moments of life can not be valued, but I believe are a major part of what makes up someone's persona. These eccentricities are the things creative people live and breath on. One of my favourite things about travelling is just wondering the streets and running into things that are unexpected. How does that happen if you plan, analyse and organise every part of it or in this case my connection to the world does it for me. What about those chance encounters that fuel a sense of wonder and imagination outside the peripheral of your life.

This is something that has been bugging me a bit lately which I have noticed particularly on facebook. Of the 500 odd friends I have on facebook. The same ones pop up on the news feed with the similar pictures and status updates. So I started a little experiment of looking into people I havent heard from in a while. Some people had moved to new countries, got married, had kids, had more kids, connected with friends of mine in other groups, completely changed careers, taken up a random hobby, gone back to school and so on. This started to make me realise that the machine was adding to my laziness (or my laziness was adding to the machine..). That there is so much even within my reach that was worth discovering but id become too habitual to enjoy that sense of chance.

I find this even more interesting at the moment as google + launches. Have a look through the great rundown from the guys at wearesocial here on all the elements. You see that the promo videos are starting to address this sense that not every part of our lives need to be analysed, planned and organised. As what breaks us away from the machines is a sense of wonder or imagination of what we dont know or what we dont expect. This no doubt brings fear to a lot of people. At a time that seems like the world is out of control, Im sure people feel great comfort in knowing what is going to happen. But will we lose out ability to be creative. Will we loose out ability to tap into the eccentricities of life to bring that sense of imagination and wonder to things that we do be it for a greater audience or just to make our lives a little more fulfilling.

I dont know about you, but I am connecting a little less often and trying to enjoy the small eccentricities that are slightly beyond my reach a little more.


CooperHQ said...

What you're talking about is closely related to the issue of "Homophily".... maybe Google+ will make this worse, but the reality is with that even with public/open platforms like Twitter we still tend to engage with people who think just like us anyway. Check out

Also reminds me of the "Nascar Blindness" issue our industry has!! Or "Not Everyone Is An Upscale Urban 30something White Male Hipster"(via Alan Wolk

mikej said...

yeah my boss just sent me a piece he wrote on april fools day a while back that talked about it in terms of an 'echo-chamber'

nice links thanks

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