…the combination of cloud computing and powerful mobile phones will also enable Google to one day tell people things they may want to know as they are walking down the street, without having to type in any search queries.
“Think of it as a serendipity engine,” [Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt] said, a reference to the company’s nearly ubiquitous Internet search engine. He predicted that this would be one of many “new services that make your life just work.”
— Google CEO Envisions a ‘Serendipity Engine’ - WSJ.com
3:20 pm • 3 May 2011
“…the evolution of search will lead us to search occuring when you’re not even using the search engine — autonomous search, Schmidt said. What he meant by this is queries that are constantly running in the background based on activity on your various devices. He called this the “Serendipity Engine”.”
Eric Schmidt On The Future Of Search — A Move Towards A “Serendipity Engine”
From TechCrunch, 28 September 2010
process: “autonomous search” using all the information that Google has collected about you using their services.
outcome: delivery of information/services you “need” based on patterns of previous behaviour (including behaviour captured without explicit input)
aim: keep you using Google products
3:17 pm • 3 May 2011 • 1 note
“The word has been voted as one of the ten English words that were hardest to translate in June 2004 by a British translation company.”
Serendipity, from Wikipedia.
Oh. Great. That’s just brilliant.
My comments are in italics.
Wikipedia’s top-line definition describes serendipity as, “when you find something that you were not expecting to find.”
That is too vague. I think serendipity has to have some use, it has to have some relevance.
The article’s editors differentiate between its role in science and technology and its role in business and strategy.
Re the former, it defines it as unique from “sagacity … being able to link together apparently innocuous facts to come to a valuable conclusion” (aka, discerning):
According to M. K. Stoskopf “it should be recognized that serendipitous discoveries are of significant value in the advancement of science and often present the foundation for important intellectual leaps of understanding”.
The discoveries of LSD and penicillin are defined as serendipitous, as “a prepared and open mind is required on the part of the scientist or inventor to detect the importance of information revealed accidentally”.
The article also lists many more purported “serendipitous” inventions/discoveries.
The relationship to sagacity is problematic. Are we developing a Sagacity Engine, in which the technology synthesises what it thinks we need and then produces an outcome that we don’t expect? Or a Serendipity Engine that helps to create happy accidents? I would argue the former, for the system needs the synthesis to produce the relevant “accident”.
Serendipity is part of the method in extending and developing new lines of enquiry and knowledge in Grounded Theory.
Now, I studied Grounded Theory in my MSc, and applied the related Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis for my social psychology dissertation, but don’t recall serendipity being explicitly taught as part of the process. But given how it’s defined in this article, I can see where the editor is coming from.
I like the antonyms included in the article. It’s useful to define something by what it isn;t. But unfortunately these are neologisms:
William Boyd coined the term zemblanity to mean somewhat the opposite of serendipity: “making unhappy, unlucky and expected discoveries occurring by design”. It derives from Novaya Zemlya (or Nova Zembla), a cold, barren land with many features opposite to the lush Sri Lanka (Serendip). On this island Willem Barents and his crew were stranded while searching for a new route to the east.
Bahramdipity is derived directly from Bahram Gur as characterized in the “The Three Princes of Serendip”. It describes the suppression of serendipitous discoveries or research results by powerful individuals.
4:00 pm • 29 April 2011 • 9 notes
The Lost Art Of Serendipity
from Martin Gill’s blog on Forrester.com (“For eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals”), The Lost Art Of Serendipity, from April 2011:
ser·en·dip·i·ty /ˌsɛr ənˈdɪp ɪ ti/ –noun
1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
2. good fortune; luck: the serendipity of getting the first job she applied for.
The content of this post has a dig at Amazon’s recommendations engine and Apple’s Genius playlists by criticisising them as “vertically unintegrated platforms.” The post itself is aimed at a business readership, so considers serendiptiy from the POV of the online shopping experience.
That feeling of walking into your favorite bookshop and picking something up in a section you don’t normally go into just because the cover leaps out at you.
The moment when you stumble across some unutterably stylish, drop dead gorgeous dress in the store you don’t normally go into, but your friend dragged you protesting into.
That magic moment where you discover something.
I prefer definition 1. I believe there’s agency in serendipity, a (conscious or not) proactive synthesis of an accidental moment. It’s not luck on its own, it’s the application of luck by recognising that there is a problem that can be solved through the lucky encounter.
I also don’t think serendipity has anything to do with liking the cover of a book. Book cover designs are well studied phenomena aimed at getting you to buy. I don’t think serendipity can be manipulated; that’s just marketing pure and simple.
The dress anecdote, however, I feel is getting somewhere.
8:00 am • 29 April 2011 • 1 note
OK. It’s the first thing that needs to be done in the development of The Serendipity Engine because it is the cornerstone of addressing the problem/process that the Engine hopes to solve/document.
So it’s a biggie. That’s why it’s been a blockade. And that’s my excuse as to why there’s been no activity here since the introductory post.
Rather than try to conclusively sum up the definition of serendipity in one definitive post right now, I’m going to start posting what I’ve been collecting up until now with details of the source’s definition, the frame of reference s/he is approaching the problem from, and my comments about which bits of the definition I agree with and which I don’t.
One day in the very near future (it’ll have to be; TED is a month away!), I’ll do an integrative post that brings together the disparate links/videos/academic definitions with each of the summaries, and then we’ll have the definition for this project.
7:43 pm • 28 April 2011 • 1 note
The Serendipity Engine is a physical manifestation of theoretical and technological interventions that can be used to enhance serendipity on the World Wide Web. It is a working machine that uses bike parts, flower pots, cake, pulleys, lightbulbs and other concrete objects to articulate the processes that could be translated into digital “solutions” that will re-engineer the potential dystopian social trajectories of current (social) software trends*. It is being theorised, devised, designed, developed and welded together by Aleks Krotoski and Dr Katrina Jungnickel.
Each of the components of The Serendipity Engine will highlight problems observed by digital theorists, designers and technologists with the way the Web currently works - linguistic barriers, echo chambers - by proposing one vision of how the technology can be re-tooled to increase serendipitous encounters. The aim of the machine is to inspire insight into the social and cultural effects of the decisions that developers make - often for commercial reasons and at the (explicit or implicit) requests of consumers - through simple, lateral demonstration.
The Serendipity Engine will be presented at TEDx in June, and in a Royal Institution of Great Britain lecture in November. It is #2 in a series of Enquiry Machines curated by Kat and Julien McHardy, which “render visible the labour of knowledge making”.
*cyber-balkanisation, cultural homogenisation, cross-cultural antagonism
3:55 pm • 15 April 2011 • 2 notes