British fashion model, actress, and social entrepreneur Lily L. Cole is working to make the impossible possible with the U.S. launch of her London-based social media site and application called Impossible.
Cole, who spoke at a panel discussion Wednesday at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, said she launched Impossible to change the culture of wish-making.
Impossible is both a website and an app that resembles a combination of Pinterest and Twitter. Registered users post their wishes or their skills in the hopes finding a match and making a wish come true, thereby promoting altruism and changing the norms of reciprocity.
After researching the concepts of what she called a “gift economy,” Cole said Impossible was created with the intention of battling paradigms of exchange.
“A gives to B because B might need it and A can do it. Trusting that if everyone gives, inevitably, everyone will give and receive,” Cole said during the discussion. “That’s the kind of world I would definitely like to be a part of.”
Cole’s said that her desire to merge the idea of giving and receiving into one natural practice has gradually become a reality now that Impossible users are not only wishing to be helped but wishing to be able to help someone.
Impossible launched in England in November and currently has 25,000 members.
Cole discussed the benefits and challenges of Impossible with Jonathan L. Zittrain, director of the Berkman Center and Harvard Law School professor, and Sir Tim J. Berners-Lee, founder of the World Wide Web Foundation.
“I don’t think the Internet is naturally primed for altruism but with that said...things we build on top of the web can be, so more power to Impossible,” Berners-Lee said.
Zittrain also expanded on the strengths and weaknesses of the application.
“Impossible is aspirational, incomplete, and will only work if there is a mass of people that want to inhabit it,” Zittrain said.
During the event, a woman in the audience admitted that she might be the only person in the room who had never been on Twitter or Facebook, but she had one wish: to take a sip of Cole’s water bottle. Cole immediately left the panel to give her the water.
Cole said that she hopes good deeds like that one will become more common as a result of her website.
“It will be interesting to see if this idea can move into the physical world,” said a researcher at the Graduate School of Design who attended the panel.
In response to a question from Urs Gasser, executive director of the Berkman Center and moderator of the panel, Cole said her one wish is to be surprised.