sending a fairy home through a portal
in the woods.
The traditional view on the internet is that it is connecting us to the rest of the world. That it is full of information, and that it is great for democracy and society. But there has been a shift in how information is flowing online. And that shift is invisible. Eli Pariser has named this The Filter Bubble. If you are online, you are in one. It is well known that when you are logged in on Facebook or Google, the algorithms behind the sites are curating what you see. It knows what you want to see because of your history.
It is not that well known, that if you borrowed a computer, sat on a café and did not do any form of login, the algorithms still analyses up to 57 signals, like what computer you use, where the café is located, what browser you use, and so on and so forth. There is no such thing as a standardised Google. We cannot decide what we see. A bigger problem is that we cannot decide what we do not see. The internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, not what we actually need to see.
Bubbles are also happening outside the internet. If you look around, you will probably see that you are living in a Reality Bubble. It is defined by the places you go, and the people you meet. People inside your bubble are getting closer, while people outside of it, are getting further away. It is nice to be in a bubble though. We listen to the music we like, we go to the bars and restaurants we like, we meet the people we like. It is comfortable. But inside the bubble is also repetition, routine, predictability and ultimately stagnation. While algorithms are curating what we see online, and are creating Filter Bubbles around our online presence, algorithms curating how we live our lives in the world could be the answer to bursting our Reality Bubbles.
Max Hawkins, artist and former programmer at Google, discovered that his life was inside a bubble where everything was foreseeable. He wanted to step out of it, so he programmed an app that would randomly choose events for him to attend in San Francisco, where he lived at the time. The app did not discriminate or differentiate between a private party with young russian professionals, salsa dancing, acroyoga or pancake events at the local primary school. He attended it all, and after celebrating christmas with total strangers one year, he started living his entire life like this. In fact his life has been curated by an algorithm for the past couple of years. His algorithm is making most of the choices for him. What music he listens to, what he is eating, who he is meeting, even where he travels and lives.
Max Hawkins started a rapidly growing Facebook-community, The Third Party, with almost 4.500 members trying his algorithm and attending random events. They hop from their own bubbles into other’s bubbles and share their stories in the community. People try everything from Tractor Shows to helping a gathering of adventurous children sending a lost fairy to Norway through an invisible portal in the woods. And the reactions are the same all over the line. People like it.
Bubble-hopping is an effective way of staying out of control of who you meet and what you do, but that means you are in control of your life. That you take back the control, and break with the stagnation. Hopping bubbles is opening up your world to new ways of living. Being curious. Engaging in diversity. Learning the ability to gracefully embrace the rapid changes happening around us, understanding them as natural elements of life in our modern world, and useing them as an important asset and fuel for creativity.
Ultimately understanding the world is understanding how we can affect it. Embracing change and loving its inherent uncertainty is a crucial attitude to develop resilient, flexible and prosperous new ways of living.