Matthew Hutson, English 111, Brown University (1998)

Numbers don't exist. Well, they exist as ideas, as convenient tools humans have constructed for describing and dealing with the outside world, but they find no absolute shadow in matter or energy. We Westerners have it all wrong. One with the world? Everything connected? No causal relationships? These Eastern ideas escape our grasp as we continue to grapple for the flag on top of the world. The individual is number One, descended from Two parents, with X cars and Y fingers. We admit that we cannot box everything into discrete quantities, some things are necessarily boxed and wouldn't make sense otherwise. That makes sense within our established scientific tradition, and this tradition has been quite useful over the years, but many phenomena escape our methods of science and always will until great changes take place.

Consider an apple. It makes perfect sense that this is a single apple, right? Within our limited view of the world we have no other way of looking at it. Taking a step back, however, we will see that this view captures a piece of the world and dissects it, thereby distorting our sample and ignoring everything outside of the sample. Embodied within this apple is the entire process of its creation. It contains its own history, marked in some way by every influence in its life and non-life. Without trees, or without dirt, or without oxygen, this apple wouldn't exist. So we see that the boundary of its skin is a false boundary. We cannot separate this apple from the context of its creation and call it a discrete object without severely marring our understanding of its nature.

Relativity stretches our notion of independence even more. One cannot give an absolute, objective account of the world without taking into account one's perspective and the context of the observations. Quantum mechanics has further torn apart our conceptions of quantity and boundary. We've seen how we can dissipate and extend boundaries through causal relationships and stretches of space-time, but the nature of the quanta eludes causality altogether and suggests flat-out transcendence. Separated events can influence each other without delay and often force our "line" metaphor for time to double back on itself.

How does this affect our growing reliance upon the binary opposition of digital information and the resulting theoretical frameworks of nature itself? Does this destroy the ultimate relevance of anything digital? Does technology, as a result, defy Eastern philosophy altogether? I don't know, but if anyone figures this one out, drop me an e-mail. ;-)

Analogue/Digital OV Cyberspace OV InfoTech