The Death of Social Networks and The Rise of Idea Networks
“The power to create is linked with the power to destroy” - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
While developing the next iteration for our startup I came across the incredible limitations of Social Networks. It quickly occurred to me that Social Networks have a lot to do with INCEST. The core principle of Social Networks is to be connected with people who you know or who are genetically related to you.
Last weekend I met an old friend of mine who works in a hospital where they cure people from Qatar, Dubai and Saudi Arabia. I ask him why they get ill. His response was: “They marry their cousins and therefore their immune system is not strong enough.” I had to think about a statement from my father who said: “We don’t marry anyone who is related to us up to the 7th generation.”
Now as everyone knows life’s principle of reproduction is based on the exchange of genes with the most random individual we can think about. Over millions of years life has set up a system to mix up properties based on randomness to generate infinite diversity (know as meiosis).
When you look who you’re connected to on Social Networks, it’s always someone who is a close friend or relative. The worst part is that Social Networks have the tendency to even suggest you people who are friends of your friends.
Now you might ask yourself: “What’s wrong with that?”
If you look at your life and the world as a two axis spectrum where one stands for preserving things and the other for changing things, than Social Network (as it is designed now) has a more PRESERVING character than CHANGING character.
Someone could argue what about Twitter, is that not connecting me to random people? It is, if you want it. But it is alienating to follow the tweet of a person you don’t know. The informations that random people provide are 98% of the time not relevant to you. So if you don’t know them, being connected to them is like watching a random person having dinner.
Since Social Networks increasingly connect you to strong ties and weak ties, you loose focus of the absent ties, which are most of the time LIFE-CHANGERS.
If you look at the people and connections that significantly changed your life for the better you will recognize that they came from nowhere. People who are already in your organic network (a.k.a strong ties) define only your status quo.
What if you create a Social Network that is build upon absent ties? It does work but only if there is a certain topic or idea that both sides want to push forward. This scenario moves you from human focused view to idea/ topic focused view.
In Social Networks with weak ties and absent ties, human connections are less relevant than idea connections.
A couple of month ago I use to be impressed by the number of users that Facebook and Twitter proclaimed. Today I just see the numbers as a driving force that this organizations depend on to sell statistics or ad-space. The life of an individual does not really improve if a Social Network doubles the number of it’s users.
From my point of view Social Networks will not change the world for this reasons:
- Connecting to strong ties will not have a huge impact.
- When you develop the “human requesting human” scenario you end up being a communication system or media.
- We created technology and design to solve problems that WE can’t.
In SN we make our creations irrelevant by commenting and discussing
- You are flooded with information-trash which has no relevance for your current life
So what comes after we realize the limited dynamics of Social Networks? The Network of Ideas:
- You don’t influence people, you influence a certain idea
- The farther your impact is away from you the better
- Weak ties and absent ties appear in your life only when you need them
- Strong ties introduce you to weak ties and absent ties
- Tools become as important as people
Social Networks will implode as a communication tool like email and telephone while being overrun by the next big wave which is the Network of Ideas.
In his speech “When ideas have sex” Matt Ridley says: “We create things that we don’t EVEN understand”. Just like life evolves through random sexual reproduction, so do we change our life and the world by outsourcing skills and knowledge of people that we simply don’t know.
The creative dilemma of Social Networks remains because of it’s desire to reflect analogue social behavior in digital format.
What’s missing and what is not “really” there yet is a DIRECT impact of digital technology on the physical world.
I remember when one of my favorite architects from Architectures Association said to me: “I want to create an intelligent city.” His ambition is similar to IBM’s mission to create “a smarter planet”.
Both visionaries as an individual or company can imagine that any kind of physical object will be linked and affected by a real and artificial intelligent. This means: any physical idea which is not linked to a digital “query” offers a massive opportunity for a new startup.
Related speeches which enforce this topic:
Emerging startups that marry the digital with the physical:
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