Thursday, June 15, 2006

Uncertainty now

Photo of me in Blackfriars yesterday. The photographer (Seize the Dave) must have taken it from the top of St Paul's Cathedral.

Jorge Luis Borges came up with a comprehensive classification of all living creatures. He attributed the classification to Dr Franz Kuhn and it was the organisational basis of a Chinese Encyclopedia called the Heavenly Emporium of Benevolant Knowledge.

It has often been held up as an example of the potential absurdities of classification, but I have learned something quite profound about my appearance from it: I look like a fly from a distance

Here is the classification in full:

a) those [animals] that belong to the emporer
b) embalmed ones
c) those that are trained
d) suckling pigs
e) mermaids
f) fabulous ones
g) stray dogs
h) those that are included in the classification
i) those that tremble as if they were mad
j) innumerable ones
k) those drawn with a very fine camel’s hair brush
l) etcetera
m) those that have just broken the flower vase
n) those that at a distance resemble flies

I must look like a fly from a distance, it is the only category I fit into. Continually breaking flower vases is not a viable option socially or financially.

Most people seem not to notice, either because they are standing to close, or because their eye is tricked by a curious effect of an uncertainty principle which is caused by the following:
  • When I look like a fly from a distance I am included in the classification, and therefore must move from category n) to category h).
  • As soon as I join category h) there is no necessity for me to look like a fly from a distance
  • As soon as I stop looking like a fly from a distance I am no longer in the scope and therefore, need to look like a fly again (from a distance).

This Uncertainty principle can be stated something like:

  • You can determine precisely the position of a living creature within Borges’s classification, and you can determine whether or not it looks like a fly from a distance, but you can not determine both things at the same moment in time.

It just shows how much effort is required to fit into someone else's world view

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