What a small world is (after all)

I just went to my favourite pub in Bath, and there were two people from America sitting at the table next to mine discussing microbiology.  I asked if they were new hires at the university, and they said no.  But it emerged that one lived 2 blocks from where I owned a condo when I last lived in Chicago, and the other's wife knew my partner's best friend, who lives in Milwaukee.

"It's a small world," they said.

No, it is not a small world.  There are 7,000,000,000 people in the world.  But AI is allowing us to find places that meet our aesthetic preferences.  And guess what aesthetics turns out to provide information about? Identity. So we keep meeting people who are nearly ourselves.

I told them about meeting two women who turned up just a bit too late to get in to a movie at the Edinburgh Film Festival and waiting in line with them for return tickets, then after the film was over discovering we'd booked the same B&B – the last of my preference set available on short notice.  So we had similar taste and were similarly disorganised and wound up doing the same things.

Do you remember in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, after all the main characters have just met and established the convoluted ways that they know each other, Zaphod Beeblebrox asks Trillian “is this sort of thing going to happen every time we use the Improbability Drive?” and she says “Very probably, I'm afraid."  Now this is our life; we've arranged it with AI so we can keep meeting ourselves.