Just Letters – a whole bunch of people trying to play with one set of fridge magnets. All at once. It looked completely random at first, but after a minute all of the orange letters started moving to one side of the screen. So I moved an orange one as well, and it was really, stupidly elating. Then back to randomness (well, non-collective purposefulness, I guess). And despite the fact that you’ve got a whole screen full of letters, there’s no way to communicate in words because in the time it takes to find letters to spell something, someone else will move one of your letters. And yet, this spontaneous gathering of orange did feel like a conversation. Which is related (oh yes, it is) in my head to two things:
1. I’m reading Sherry Turkle’s book “Life on the Screen” and she’s talking about emergence and artificial life and how a bunch of creatures or cells or whatever following simple rules can together create complex and unpredictable behaviours, and that this might be where science meets ‘god’ in some way.
2. “The Wisdom of Crowds” (Jen’s handy hint – get someone else to read things and tell you the interesting bits, if you trust them to know what interesting is, and then you can know twice as much stuff. Which is to say, I haven’t read this, but I trust my ‘someone else’): the premise that, weirdly enough, large groups are better than even ‘expert’ individuals at predicting things and making good decisions. I went back to “Just Letters” just now and in the middle of the screen it said JOY JOY J Y.
So I found another O.