Serendipity On the Web

ImageSerendipity to me means always new. Because one day none of it will be new. Having an article pending wont be new. Doing a hundred pushups wont be new. Knowing what I want to pursue wont be new. Neither hope nor disappointment can maintain their novelty. What you know has to ultimately become old. Only what you don’t know can always be new. Maybe the strongest argument yet for the existence of God is the discovery that only uncertainty is certain in this Universe. It is a great gift to a curious race of humans from a little sun called sol, to be presented on the dawn of its civilization with a Universe as full of serendipity as it is infinite. This is the gift of the gods as deists would unfailingly announce.

If there is a miracle out there it is serendipity. If there is hope it is the hope that you will be surprised. Pleasantly surprised. As some look to ever increasing knowledge about reality to be a source of control and the ability to predict, I look to the same path-finding scientific research with the hope that I will be surprised by what they find. I think we need it. The strangeness that is.

We absolutely must, from time to time, recover that feeling of uncharted depth. Maybe that’s why explorers set off from the old world and discovered the new. Maybe that is how we humans, before the advent of modern ships had managed to spread onto 6 continents, with only the intolerable Antarctica  barring our way. What could these first humans and those 15th century Spanish explorers have had in common other than an undying thirst for the unknown?

Serendipity is an old word. The phenomenon itself is as old as mankind. But the online world has breathed new life into the term. We click on a strange new pop up icon on our desktop for the same reason that our ancestors hopped onto wooden vessels and floated off to near certain doom. We hate boredom just a little more than we fear the unknown.

Serendipity feeds hope. It’s the voice that says, “there is always a chance this wont suck!” A great example is the ballooning growth of the world wide web. In a few decades its population of users has grown by billions. I mean it was only invented in 1990. I was born a mere two years later and it has been an indelible part of my education and entertainment. The sheer wealth which this tool has generated is truly incredible. Millions of online jobs now exist where mere decades ago there were none. Companies like Apple have a new lease on life because of the possibilities which the interconnected medium of the web affords.

One of the world wide web’s most consistent growth sources is in fact serendipity. Through hyperlinks, strangers are connected to what will eventually become familiar content to them. That’s how once upstarts come to dominate an industry such as search and old legends like Netscape are bought up and recycled by the survivors. Hyperlinks are one of the most significant part of the web. they are a force of egalitarianism the likes of which both Marx and Engels could never have dreamed of. Through hyperlinks, titans such as coca cola and an average blog from the web have the same weight if you measure the connectivity of their url. Information is indeed a primary function and product of the web. But it is the unexpected kind that is the most interesting.

The advertising value of exploiting online serendipity has been achieved by search engines such as Google. Their use of sponsored ads which match with a user’s search term tends to exploit the power  of serendipity. These sponsored links maintain their unexpectedness while realizing very expected returns for the search company. We stumble upon so much online that it is almost a rule that the greatest value the web has to offer is serendipity.

Almost every significant website in my life, I have happened to find accidentally. I discovered Wikipedia though Google and I discovered Google through its infamy as a search leader. My cherished file sharing(stealing) sites like 4shared came into my life accidentally through a web search. They were just there. When I needed them the most they were just there. Like a part of my fate or something.

This is the effect I speak of when I say serendipity. I speak of moments when the entire web just aligns to make your day. Like a super-funny video you run into on YouTube. Lolcats, anesthetized kids, Gagnem style are just a few examples of the cool stuff I’ve bumped into whilst surfing.

The web is such an interesting and useful cluster of infomedia that practically guarantees you that moments such as these will occur. It’s a different place. Online, you’re only bored if you so choose to be. There are too many interesting people out there doing amazing things to leave you out of a worthwhile online experience. It’s a web. Don’t judge it, surf it!