I’m curating a series this November at The Royal Institution of Great Britain in London, and I’ve selected three events that fall under the umbrella, “Connections”: a lecture by science historian James Burke, an experimental classical music performance that takes its inspiration from neuronal patterns, and live demo of a machine that produces serendipity. It’s all very exciting.

Here’s an overview:

The overall theme of the three-lecture series is “Connections,” focussing on the evolution of innovation as a process of social production enhanced by our interpersonal and informational connections. Recently, technology has contributed to this process, as a platform, a conduit and an articulation of existing networks and pathways. What impact does this have on our understanding and production of knowledge, culture and society?

Kat and I will be unveiling the physical Serendipity Engine that we’ve been working on for the last few months on Tuesday 8 November. We ask how the digital connections of the Web affect our opportunity to bump into and make the most of happy accidents. Come ready to poke & pull at the machine.

On Tuesday 15 November, science historian James Burke, one of my personal heroes, will present his lecture, 1 + 1 = 3. James is an incredible storyteller, and his extended monologues to camera in the BBC series Connections still astound me for his memory skill and their conceptual dexterity.

Details & booking for James’ talk are here:

James Burke takes a sideways look at the connective nature of innovation and its social effects. Two ideas come together to produce something that is greater than the sum of the parts. The result is almost a surprise (in the way, for instance, the first typewriters boosted the divorce rate!).

Innovation has usually attempted to solve some aspect of the problem with which we have lived for two million tool-using years: scarcity. As a result, our institutions, value systems, modes of thought and behaviour have all been shaped by the fact that there’s never been enough of everything to go around.

However, thanks to the internet and a radically-accelerated rate of connective, inter-disciplinary innovation, we may be on the verge of solving the problem of scarcity once and for all. In ways that may really surprise us. What will abundance do to us? And how should we prepare for it?

The third event is a talk about/performance of a new version of Cortical Songs with John Matthias and Nick Ryan, plus a talented quintet, on Monday 21 November. How does classical music fit into a series about connections? Here’s a description of their piece, released in 2009:

John Matthias and Nick Ryan took the rhythmic patterns of firing neurons and used them as guideposts for an improvised performance by a string ensemble.

Booking details for Cortical Songs will be available nearer the time.