The Serendipity Machine

In this, my second ever blog, I’m going to give you a few links to the places where I’ve found mention of serendipity.

The first has to be to the serendipity machine created by technology journalist Aleks Krotoski, who I saw speak at a recent writers and readers event. Her book, Untangling the Web is now sitting on my bedside table, ready to read (after the three others that sit on top of it, mind).

She was the person who put the idea of a serendipity blog into my head – it just clicked with everything else I had been trying to do with my writing and the kind of ideas I wanted to put across. I could have completely misunderstood her (and I’ve looked around the blog to try and make sure I’m not making this up and can’t find anything to confirm it as yet…) but as I understand it the serendipity machine is an algorithm that takes the answers that a person gives to a complicated questionnaire designed by Aleks to give an idea of the way a person thinks and feels (she has a PhD in social psychology, presumably she knows how to do this?), and pulls out a group of words, possibly based on how often those words have been used in the course of the questionnaire, possibly not.

Then, depending on your answers to the questions, which were also used to determine the level of serendipity in your life, the serendipity machine then puts those words through Google Translate (English-German and back again) multiple times (fewer for people who are less inclined towards serendipity, more for those who embrace it) and then gives you the words back, to do with what you will.

I have to say, I’m ITCHING to do it. No idea how, for some reason I thought it would just be a matter of going to the website and giving it a go. But it’s not. It would be a fantastic example of serendipity if Aleks were to read this post and contact me about it… haha.

Anyhoo. I think it’s a great idea.

She also talked about the web itself, and how it is becoming less serendipitous. Google for example is now predicting what you might want to find out about, and where you might want to go, it knows the region you live in, your daily schedule, and uses its own algorithms to determine content worthy of your notice. Search engine optimisation is a massive market where people are daily involved in the manipulation of information on the internet. We are being cornered, corralled and coaxed into a small sphere of predictability. Sigh.

I think I’m going to try and find ways to freak Google out. Do some weird searches, or dig deeper into the answers I get from a search. At least past page one. (nothing too serious, don’t worry, I’m not a complete nutbar.)

Talk again soon.

Leave a Comment: