The serendipity machine is low on oil

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for the unveiling of the Official Rough Type Sentence of the Week. This one comes from Steven Johnson, and it appears at the end of a vertiginous post about mental hyperlinking:

“People who think the Web is killing off serendipity are not using it correctly.”

Now, first of all, I hadn’t even realized that there was a correct way to use the Web. I wish someone had explained this to me years ago, because I’m sure it would have saved me all sorts of time.

But what really drew me to Johnson’s line was the way that it immediately conjured up in my mind this vision of a scene that looked like something out of a Terry Gilliam movie. There’s this big, windowless room, and sprawling across it is a vast, elaborate steampunk contraption. It’s got all sorts of pipes and pulleys and gears and bellows, and it’s belching smoke and making loud metallic noises, and there’s a sign hanging from it that reads: Serendipity Machine. A guy is running madly around it yanking levers and pulling out stops and pushing buttons and fiddling with dials. Behind him, observing, is an old man in a white lab coat, a scientist, obviously. He’s stooped over, a grim expression on his face. The guy operating the machine suddenly stops, turns, and, exhausted, exclaims, “I can’t get any serendipity out of this damn thing!” To which the old scientist, wagging a crooked finger, responds, in a deep Austrian accent, “You are not using it correctly!”

4 thoughts on “The serendipity machine is low on oil

  1. tomslee

    I love this paragraph in SBJ’s article:

    “I am currently working on an introductory bit that contrasts old, bureaucratic models of state organization with some new network structures that are currently on the rise. So my mind has been primed for anything that seems thematically relevant to those topics.”

    No bias there. None at all.

  2. an691

    The world is low on oil, and the fact that most Americans arn’t even aware that they went through their oil production peak in 1970 tells quite a bit about the bunch of airheads that they are …

    (but for sure the cover up has been quite active)

  3. Sam Punnett

    One of my favorite quotes remains a comment made by a senior Canadian broadcasting panelist who after trying to describe her company’s Web activities decided to finish with, “I’ve already told you more about this than I know.”

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