RIP: Serendipity

Valeria Maltoni is a very smart woman. She speaks fifteen different languages, and holds patents on two new ones. (Okay, I made that part up.) Being the multi-lingual diva that she is, she’s known as “The Conversation Agent.” I would suppose that being able to analyze situations through several languages at once opens a different set of perspectives on the matter. And, of course, supposition is all that might be, as I am a naturally-born United States citizen and am prohibited by the Constitution from learning another language. (Okay, I made that part up too.)

She’s got a very smart analysis about the fracturing of the marketplace, and what the Blitz of Choices will mean for marketers. Go ahead and read that so you can be smart, then come back and allow me the indulgence to wax poetic on what it will mean for individuals.

Heir of Error

I am an Heir of Error. The process of evolution, at the molecular level of DNA, is nothing more than a Comedy of Errors. Over time, those errors that don’t kill me make me better.

Errors also make life more interesting. For instance, I love Black Cherry Fresca. Even though I have no taste for cherries, and every other cherry-flavored soda is repugnant to me. Tastes like petroleum. (I’m talking about you, Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper.) The only reason I tried BCF is the labeling was too similar to regular Fresca, and my wife bought it for my office. I tried it, out of spite, and liked it!

More than a Beverage

Now, imagine a life where your personal shopper (sorry Hon) never makes a mistake. Better yet – imagine a life where your personal assistant knows your preferences and tastes so well that what you want is served directly to you, without being asked?

In some respects, we are right there. We are about to see the rise of web services that pull and pluck the information we want, and the stuff we didn’t even know we wanted. By analyzing keywords and content, they will be able to suggest news and information from sources you never imagined existed – and suggest news about topics that you really would have wanted if you knew about them!

This poses a scary future. One in which the initial choices we make will have a profound impact on the final direction of our information flow. Choosing a single different news source at the outset can set you on a different path entirely. And once the system “learns” your patterns, you will be inundated with so much personalized information that you’ll not have time to choose outside of your algorithm. You might try, but why bother when you’re so comfortable with all of the content right there in front of you?

The Exercise of Choice

Once we’re cocooned in our comfort zone, “choice” really has little meaning. We’ve ceded “choice” to a formula — or worse yet, a “web” of preferences based on other people just like us. How easy will it be to game those formulae? Take away choice and error, and say goodbye to serendipity.

If it weren’t for “choice” and “error,” I wouldn’t be sipping the last of a delicious Black Cherry Fresca as I finish this post. And I wouldn’t have stumbled upon the writings of Valeria Maltoni. And you most likely wouldn’t be reading this. In fact, I know you wouldn’t. Because my subject matter and format — while maintaining a somewhat uniform tone and theme — doesn’t fit an easy stencil template. If you had a preference for commentary on communication, you’d get something that did nothing but that, and miss out on my Venn diagrams and Demotivationals. You wouldn’t learn about the connection between the rhythm of the cicadas, hair mousse, Avatar, the Hook-and-Lateral, and Jimmie Lee Sudduth. (They all made the complex simple.)

We’d miss out on the really interesting things that happen at the intersections. It’s the crumbs that fall into the cracks between disciplines that make for the most original thinking, the most important science. It’s the ability to carry a concept from the language of one tribe into the cant of another.

Right, Valeria?

[tags]Ike Pigott, Occam’s RazR, Valeria Maltoni, Conversation Agent, fuzzy logic, marketing, choice[/tags]

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  1. There’s also the choice we make of taking a detour from our usual path 😉

  2. Good post. I totally agree about the ‘going down just one path’ concept. People already do that now in so many ways. The perfect personal assistant would introduce a bit of randomness into things to keep it spicy.

    And you could do much worse than to stumble across the writings of Valeria!