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Serendipity Architecture

June 11th , 2012

The video call is the biggest threat to humanity we've ever faced. The video call is the final nail in the coffin of talking to the person next to us. The path of anti-social behaviour books started us on will lead to the edge of a massive cliff by way of the video call.

Technology has an uncanny knack for doing two completely opposite things at the same time: bringing us together and pulling us apart. Books connect us with humanity and isolate us from the here and now. Telephones allow us to speak to people we care about while ignoring our neighbours. Smartphones, well, we know about those.

The thing is, it gets worse at every stage. At least books offer a quiet indulgence. At least home telephones only make us a pest to our own families. Mobile phones make us everyone's shouty neighbour. So, imagine the video phone in full, global use. Picture it. See us all with headphones on, rambling at our screens. I love video calls to my family when I'm away, but what if the video call became so embedded that we used it all the time?

All of this is a reminder that most of us are in the wrong place most of the time. The more we're not in the right place the more we need to use technology to connect us to others who are similarly displaced. But what if we were rarely in the wrong place? What if technology helped us to be in the right place more often? I don't mean that we travel to see people all the time, but that we were in the right place to start with.

I'm fascinated by Serendipity Architecture, like Twitter translated to the physical world. Where Twitter allows us to communicate with anyone (according to some unspoken hierarchy of perceived importance) Serendipity Architecture adds a geographical layer. Really want to meet someone? Did you know that they were going to be stopping in York for half an hour on their way to a conference in two weeks' time? You'll be only ten minutes away on that day. See if they'd like a quick chat.

Or, more to the point, see if your destinies are written in the algorithms. Because it will all come down to mathematics. Social technologies have an opportunity to solve one of of the biggest problems we face - constantly being in the wrong place. But the mechanics behind it are incredible. Yes, there are apps already starting to build something future-facing, but they're largely limited to friends and still pretty basic.

The truly exciting apps of the future will take Serendipity Architecture to a global stage. They will enable us to meet anyone based on where we happen to be at a particular time and who we're interested in meeting (and another layer which, hopefully, is not derived from our Klout scores). On a more practical level they will drastically reduce our need to travel. But, most importantly, they will save us from a future of video calls.