“The word has been voted as one of the ten English words that were hardest to translate in June 2004 by a British translation company.”
Oh. Great. That’s just brilliant.
My comments are in italics.
Wikipedia’s top-line definition describes serendipity as, “when you find something that you were not expecting to find.”
That is too vague. I think serendipity has to have some use, it has to have some relevance.
Re the former, it defines it as unique from “sagacity … being able to link together apparently innocuous facts to come to a valuable conclusion” (aka, discerning):
According to M. K. Stoskopf “it should be recognized that serendipitous discoveries are of significant value in the advancement of science and often present the foundation for important intellectual leaps of understanding”.
The discoveries of LSD and penicillin are defined as serendipitous, as “a prepared and open mind is required on the part of the scientist or inventor to detect the importance of information revealed accidentally”.
The article also lists many more purported “serendipitous” inventions/discoveries.
The relationship to sagacity is problematic. Are we developing a Sagacity Engine, in which the technology synthesises what it thinks we need and then produces an outcome that we don’t expect? Or a Serendipity Engine that helps to create happy accidents? I would argue the former, for the system needs the synthesis to produce the relevant “accident”.
Serendipity is part of the method in extending and developing new lines of enquiry and knowledge in Grounded Theory.
Now, I studied Grounded Theory in my MSc, and applied the related Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis for my social psychology dissertation, but don’t recall serendipity being explicitly taught as part of the process. But given how it’s defined in this article, I can see where the editor is coming from.
I like the antonyms included in the article. It’s useful to define something by what it isn;t. But unfortunately these are neologisms:
William Boyd coined the term zemblanity to mean somewhat the opposite of serendipity: “making unhappy, unlucky and expected discoveries occurring by design”. It derives from Novaya Zemlya (or Nova Zembla), a cold, barren land with many features opposite to the lush Sri Lanka (Serendip). On this island Willem Barents and his crew were stranded while searching for a new route to the east.
Bahramdipity is derived directly from Bahram Gur as characterized in the “The Three Princes of Serendip”. It describes the suppression of serendipitous discoveries or research results by powerful individuals.