Ming the Mechanic:
Synchronicity and the Web

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Synchronicity and the Web2004-06-18 18:55
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Richard MacManus wrote a couple of articles about synchronicity and the web: Statis and Synchronicity and A Theory of Synchronicity for the Web.
Synchronicity is a term made famous by the psychiatrist Carl Jung. He defined synchronicity as an "occurrence of a meaningful coincidence in time". Further, it as "an acausal connecting principle". Which is to say that a connection occurs through the sharing of a common meaning, not because one event caused the other. Jung went so far as to boldly state that "synchronicity could thus be added as a fourth principle to the triad of space, time, and causality".

Synchronicity has come to mean a variety of things. Laurence Boldt claims that synchronicity reflects the "underlying interconnectedness of all things within the Universe" [my emphasis]. An attractive theory for those of us addicted to Web culture! Stephen J. Davis states that synchronicity is "a very personal and subjective observation of this inter-connected universe of which we are but a small part". Another keyword that pops up in writings about synchronicity is "flow" - which of course reminds me of the Web's Information Flow. When used to describe synchronicity, it's all about the "flow of life". For example, this quote:

"When we are in the flow we experience more synchronous events, more pleasure and less pain. The flow of coincidences is our path to higher ground."
So, yes, we need more synchronicity and more serendipity. He doesn't really say how that actually might work, but nevertheless it is an important subject.

We could use a synchronicity engine, really. Some tools that increase synchronicity.

Randomness is one way of going about it, even though it isn't enough in itself. If you look at some random, unexpected content frequently, you're likely to run into something unexpected that really fits for you. Random links used to be popular, but probably give you too much junk most of the time.

Collaborative Filtering might suggest new things to you that you didn't know about, but that fit your interest areas. E.g. Amazon will suggest a book to you that you maybe didn't know about, which has been bought by other people who've bought similar books as you. That's useful of course, but it is rarely what we would call synchronicity.

Blogging and the reading of many news feeds tends to increase synchronicity. You only look at a small sub-section of the world, as you read blog feeds you've already picked as being somehow interesting. You don't control what people write about, and you scan whatever it happens to be. And sometimes themes form unexpectedly. Several people write about the same things at the same time. Which might appear mysteriously meaningful and timely. OK, sometimes it is merely because they happened to read the same article and comment on it. The blog world is a bit inbred, as many people comment on the same things, and mainly scan each other's feeds and standard news sources for input.

Sometimes the most stimulating posts are either when somebody picks some unnoticed or old item or when they write about their own life, without referring to any news item. Looking around for unnoticed or new snippets of information is likely to increase synchronicity, as the item might appear timely and relevant for a bunch of other people, but also unexpected.

I like using semi-random content on some sites I've done. Quotes, web links, pictures, etc. The combinations of what pops up often seems meaningful to people. Like the quote was selected just for them.

It is like the old creativity technique of blindly finding two words in the dictionary, and then pretending that they relate to a particular situation or problem at hand, and looking for the meaningful connection between them. It is very often there, and it is often useful. That's a way of generating synchronicity.

There needs to be a wide-range freedom of motion for synchronicity to be more likely. If I only change between 3 quotes on my webpage, none of them will seem very synchronistic to most people. But if I have a few hundred, and they're good quotes in the first place, many people will find them strangely relevant.

Synchronicity is also increased the more different items I practically can manage to be shown. Again, if I see only one quote per day, chances are fewer that it will be really meaningful than if I could stand paying attention to 100. But I maybe can't. There's a sweet spot somewhere, where you're presented with enough diversity, but not so much that it becomes a blur.

If I go to a party with 10 people, and it turns out that two of us are wearing the same shirt, that's a coincidence I'll notice, even if it is not very meaningful. If we talk, and find out we were wearing the shirt for the same unlikely reason, then it begins being meaningful. But if there were 1000 people, and one of them was wearing the same shirt as me, that would just be statistics at work.

As to the net, the question is how to provide me with an increased number of coincidental fits, in a number that is great enough to be useful, and small enough to be remarkable.

There's probably some strange way of calculating the generative diversity in a volume of information, blog postings or whatever. And then maybe the synchronicity potential. You know, the information has to be sufficiently relevant to me in the first place, for me to bother paying attention to it. But sufficiently diverse and unexpected to supply me with new fits that I couldn't have guessed on my own.

In any stream of data one can measure the amount of information, at least theoretically. If I tell you 000000000000010000, then the information is in the part that is different. The 1 is the interesting part. The rest can easily be compressed into a very small space.

Same with the stream of postings in blog world, theoretically. How much of it is really people talking about the same things, and saying very similar things about them? How much of it is really new? How much of it is information? How much of it is knowledge being transferred, i.e. you actually get something you can do something with?

Synchronicity is often that you send out a signal you weren't aware of, and you get a response. If you're aware of it, it is something else. If I search for something on google, and I find it, it isn't terribly surprising any longer, and it isn't synchronicity. But it might be when I get an answer to something I didn't quite know I was asking.

I vaguely hear somebody mention a book at another table in a restaurant. I walk into a bookstore five minutes later, and there it is on the shelf, and when I open it, I realize it is very interesting and relevant to me. That's a synchronicity.

Aha, that gives some inkling of how we technologically can help it happen. Something needs to capture way more channels of information about you than you normally bother paying conscious attention to. At least not at the same time. What people have been saying around you recently; what clothes you're wearing; what's on your bookshelf; all the people you know; all the subjects you're interested in; all the projects you're working on. And something needs to be matching all these items with other people's items, and items in your surroundings, as a background process.

There's no reason you shouldn't be able to have access to sufficiently extensive and automatic information sharing that you can walk out on the street and something says "Beep! That person walking on the other side of the street is out to buy a washer. You have one for sale. Why don't you talk with him?"

We're simply talking about some kind of location-aware device that knows who's close by, in the real world, or in an online setting. And then some way of representing a large number of needs and wants and what's available. That's the harder part. Expressing a lot of fairly fuzzy human resources and resource requirements in a finite enough way that they can be automatically matched. Even if they might not have been deliberately voiced.

In principle the objective is simple. You'd carry a lot of informational receptors in your space. They will link up with matching reciprocal receptors that are available in your environment. If done right, it is a technology-assisted way of being in the flow all the time.

What most people want is out there, and probably close by. What most people offer is needed somewhere, probably close by.

We could very well get used to having things matched up effortlessly, rather than having to spend a lot of energy looking for things that aren't there. And lot of things would just be working, by lightning speed.

It can take several frustrating hours to look for a suitable plane flight that is cheap and actually available. There's no good reason you shouldn't get the information that you eventaully end up with, but right away, in the first try. It can take hours looking for the right product for some purpose. It can be a good deal of work selling some item, as you need to locate good places, and there are several of them, and you aren't in any way guaranteed to find the people who really want your item. All of that kind of thing could simply be an automatic underlying substrate of connectivity, that connects those things that fit, and lets you know about it, and which doesn't waste your time with all the things that don't fit.

The Synchronicity Engine. We need it soon.

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20 Jun 2004 @ 05:18 by Yenayer @ : Synchronicity
You wrote :
"What most people want is out there, and probably close by. What most people offer is needed somewhere, probably close by.
We could very well get used to having things matched up effortlessly, rather than having to spend a lot of energy looking for things that aren't there. And lot of things would just be working, by lightning speed."

Isn't synchronicity about things that you don't know that you wanted, as Rebecca Blood puts it ( Richard McManus quoted her ) : "pointing readers to things that they didn't know they wanted to see".

You gave this example :
"I vaguely hear somebody mention a book at another table in a restaurant. I walk into a bookstore five minutes later, and there it is on the shelf, and when I open it, I realize it is very interesting and relevant to me. That's a synchronicity."
You did not know that you needed this book.
It's not about looking for an information you needed ( suitable plane flight ).
How could it be possible to match a need we don't know about with an offer ? Could we design an engine doing that ?

There is a question in my mind : How can we make the difference between "synchonicity" and "serendipity". My first anwser is to say that serendipity occurs when we are searching ( we have the purpose of searching ) something and then we find something else that happens to be relevant to us. And sinchronicity occurs when we are just living, socializing, talking, listening to the people around us. ( like in the restaurant )

Sorry for my bad english :-)


20 Jun 2004 @ 07:23 by spiritseek : maybe
Are we actually tapping into that universal intelligence web? Do we already know the answers but have trouble recalling them? Is there spiritual guides ready to help us when we ask? Whats really weird is some of the things I write or draw when finished gives me a feeling I've done it before.  

20 Jun 2004 @ 07:31 by ming : Matching what we don't know
Right, synchronicity is normally the unknown, unexpected stuff. But I do imagine that we can increase that by technological means. Not the stuff we're deliberately searching for, but the stuff we have information about, but didn't think of searching for.

In the example above with the book, if I had a robotic assistant that listened in on what is going on around me, it might have recorded the conversation at the next table. And somehow identified that a book was being talked about. And then when I walk into a bookstore, it would scan the visual image around me, or it would access the inventory of the bookstore. And it would try to match up anything it can. Including all books mentioned around me recently. And it brings the matches to my attention.

OK, that's a bit beyond current capabilities, but not all that much. For a program to understand the conversation at the next table - that is hard. Looking at the bookshelves with me, and decoding what we're looking at - that is hard too. But they will be possible before too long. In the meantime, it would be useful also if we constrained ourselves to less fuzzy sources. Like, books mentioned on weblogs, or the names of people or organizations.

Serendipity - yeah, I guess we could say that's a couple of degrees less magical than synchronicity. Like, how one can quickly find something interesting, simply by doing a search on google, including stuff one didn't expect.  

11 Sep 2004 @ 13:52 by Sebastien Leclerc @ : Technological solution
Very interesting. I sit down this morning, open up www.bloglines.com and follow seb's open research (http://radio.weblogs.com/0110772/) and find out this article.

I have been introduced to the reality of synchronicity through the very interesting book from James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy. In this book, the synchronicity happends as a natural thing, provided that one keeps an open mind follow it's instincts. This book was an eye opener to me, as I realised that the best moves in my life all originated from coincidences.

The next book that got my attention was "Fingerprints of the gods". Although historical conclusions of the book can be criticised, it is truely amazing to see what prehistorical human beings were capable of achieving in different areas like astronomy, mathematics, and the knowledge of the universe.

There are many other books I read about these ancient cultures. There are many different allusions to the use of crystals. Were they some kind of antenna, amplifiers? Did they really exist? Did we forget how to use them when the earth got through thousands of years of glaciation?

We are now in a new technological area. Information is flowing increasingly faster and faster. People are connecting at a high rate, sometimes for a very short period of time. However, we are "trapped" in the interfaces that evolved from the personal computer evolution.

The proliferation of smart mobile phones in cities could useful after all. Their power could be harnessed, specially with technologies like bluetooth being more and more widespread. Phones or other devices having peer to peer capabilities could exchange with each other about the topics published by their owners.

These topics would be hooks that would vibrate the phone when a compatible hook would be found.

If I take the fridge example, I could set an announcing hook saying "fridge for sale". Someone setting a search hook for "fridge for sale" would be notified by my presence. Let's pretend that we are wearing glasses with built-in displays (that technology is available today). The glasses would display: "Fridge for sale: match".

Possibilities are endless. Even for spammers! The difference is that you actually SEE the spammer and can act on him (her) in the real world. What a revenge!!  

12 Sep 2004 @ 20:41 by ming : Connections
It could change everything if we really could see the connections around us. I.e. the actual or potential matches, in accordance with our interest areas.

Like, the spammer example there. What if, when I walk by a house, it tells me that I've gotten 5732 unwanted messages that are aliases of the person who lives in that house. OK, that's a little difficult to figure out at this point, but suppose we could.

Or, I walk by a house, and I'm informed that here lives the owner of so-and-so big corporation. Or here lives somebody who donated 1/2 million dollars to the Republican National Committee. Or to a front group for Al Qaida.

OK, that's hard too. Hard to piece the data together. And there would be many potential problems and privacy issues. But the concept is, what if you could much better see what actually is around you, you could also much better take appropriate action. And, ultimately I think transparency would be the best direction to go.

That goes much further than the simple matching of offered and wanted items. But it is in the same realm of mapping information onto the physical context it applies to. Which clearly would help form connections that it would be desirable to form. More effectively than waiting for it to fall in your lap.  

10 Mar 2005 @ 04:03 by Arthur Scott Varela @ : A Factual Explanation of Synchronicity
The Website link I provided takes you to a free book I wrote that explains that there is another consciounsess that lives life with everybody that is organizing thing synchronized or timed together. The Timed Communication subject on the book explains the details that allows anybody to observe constant communication from the what some call sub conscious with them, mostly I term it sub consciousness-because it is a seperate conscious awareness. It is amazing to find out that it is the source of the thoughts and ideas we observe, our awareness is not coming up with any of it-it just seems like it. It is the source of all the Thoughts and Ideas we observe. Most do not realize the importance of the suggestion of basically memorizing the timed communication subject-because if you are not familiar enough with the list of words that they organize body movements on the left side of the body, and the list of words that they organize on the right side of the body, and also the lists of things observable-they your sub consciousness could cause you to observe something, and if not familiar enough you would not recognize that the observation is one of the things which is the indicator-of which you should stop and compare a word or phrase in the thoughts you observe, your speech, someone elses speech, words or phrases on the radio or television, and finally written words. send all inquiries, questions, and comments to the address of scovar2@yahoo.com
After reading some of Freuds, and Jungs writings, this is when I realized how much more accurately my sub consciousness has revealed reality. My writings are absolute reality-worded so that it is easy to comprehend-their writings are just theories that are difficult to understand and does not leave anyone with knowledge of the truthful functioning of the Human Brain, and the amazing Human Consciousness Situation.
From the Author Scott Varela  

5 May 2005 @ 17:55 by sync_ron_icity @ : coincidences
A matter of the timing and importance in the event, if any . .

Requires a positive open mind though, if you know what i mean.  

19 Dec 2014 @ 19:10 by Baboloki @ : mSMTIvqRDROBKUuDNf
To have one of those magical and loelvy days outside where the temperature is just right and the wind gusts by every now and then. And most importantly, to have the time to just enjoy it and live in that moment without any cares of the world seeping in just for a little bit.  

23 Dec 2014 @ 12:45 by Tony @ : KzuKXMOoreHtBRpeqlnO
I love it when this kind of thing happens. I love your csuncioos intention to intentionally create your wish without csuncioos action. Beautiful idea! I have a feeling this happens all the time- usually we just don't notice.  

1 May 2016 @ 10:25 by Joyce @ : kTYccyhWtpIJOxKI
I could read a book about this without finding such real-world apsorachep!  

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