Notes from The Blue Book.

And so, Wittgenstein said:

” […] The question what kind of activity thinking is is analogous to this: ‘Where does thinking take place?’ […] by misunderstanding the grammar of our expressions, we are led to think of one in particular of these statements as giving the real seat of the activity of thinking. […] Thinking, one wants to say, is part of our ‘private experience’. It is not material, but an event in private consciousness. This objection is expressed in the question: ‘Could a machine think?’ I shall talk about this at a later point, and now only refer you to an analogous question: ‘Can a machine have tootache?’ […] The question is What is the relation between thinking (or toothache) and the subject which thinks, has toothache, etc.? […] I shall in the future again and again draw your attention to what I shall call language games. These are ways of using signs simpler than those in which we use the signs of our highly complicated everyday language.”

And after good ol’ Ludwig said these words, Language Games were discovered, and the whole world would never be the same.

To be continued…

Taken from: Major Works, Selected Philosophical Writings published by HarperCollins.


Writing as a freeing exercise prior to a technical phone interview

“El Dinosaurio” by Augusto Monterroso

Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí.

That, right up there in italics, is the world’s shortest story. 

When one thinks of writing a story, a short story, or any story whatsoever, we probably do not think of the above.

If we were to write those words, in that order, all of a sudden, we probably would just consider it the first part of something, a sentence that is neither here nor there, maybe even a possible ending. But, a full story? In just ~66 characters? 

Now, I would like you to consider this: Was Monterroso able to create this short story, a complete short story in 10 words,  because the cultural context had developed in such a way that it was accepted by its peers as a short story? Had this story been written by, say, Shakespeare, do you think it would have counted as a short story? What if it had been written by an old Babylonian priest? (Assuming that a Babylonian priest would know what a dinosaur is/was or maybe substituting the word dinosaur by lizard or alligator or some other animal known to such hypothetical priest)

My own, personal, answer is… I don’t know.

One possible way to view reality is via semiotics: the current state of affairs that we call the world is composed of a series of symbols whose meanings change constantly, via paradigm shifts – I am totally abusing Kuhn’s original interpretation – the old symbols being replaced by new ones, and probably becoming a mystery to us, in other words the whole signifier/signified/sign/symbol thing.

I can always play around with the idea that I understand what Leibniz, or Mercator for that matter, meant by infinitesimals, but my mental constructs are already “infected” with other parasites that make the – original – concept of infinitesimals nothing more than philosophical ramblings. I cannot change this. (See also limit)

 Now, I am not saying that it is not possible, all I am saying is that through my experience I have found that it is impossible for me to exactly know what was meant by infinitesimal in Leibniz’s time. What I think I am trying to say is that his contemporaries might have had a clearer grasp of what the concept meant for Leibniz himself than we will ever have. The accumulation of – more accurate, more precise – concepts via science – and, by all means, science is awesome – has created a context that permeates everything else. No way to go back really.

 Can you think of  a way?


the tale of the late adoption of a smart phone

The previous week was my first with a smart phone. I had never given much thought, to be quite honest, to how it could really affect my life, or anybody else’s for that matter, but I am convinced now that it really does.

The first thing that I noticed is how unused to the post-pc world I am. My own silly example: I still tell my wife that I need to check something on my Mac before going out for dinner. The idea that the content is actually available for me at any time, regardless of where I am, is totally new. When I think about this in the big picture context it actually helps me realize how life changing such a technology might be. As it keeps growing, your own world keeps growing, ie. your context expands, creating new possibilities of life on the go, not just for communication purposes but also for pretty much anything that you can think of. 

Now, I admit, this is pretty old news for 99% of people out there in the US, but it has given me a truly great discovery-like experience that actually feels brand new. I do not feel like I am taking my computer with me everywhere, I used to do that before, that just felt like I could connect anywhere. Now I actually feel like I am connected, because… well, I am connected.  

It might appear totally trivial – and maybe it is – but just think about it for a second. The possibility of being able to connect to the web, it’s services, it’s tools, depends on the availability of certain conditions, each dependent to the physical space. The subway might not be an ideal place to take out your laptop and start typing away, at a really fancy restaurant you might be cast away and frowned upon, at school… cemetery… dinner… &c. The possibility of being able to connect gets reduced by the physical and cultural context. 

This does not happen with a smart phone. In this case, you are already connected; as we know, the difference – although possible to represent in a context of on/off, 0/1 – is abysmal, in the same way that you would rather take a free cheap chocolate instead of buying a really fancy one for $0.50. 

So now I ponder upon the other hidden faces of what it really means…

Connected vs To Connect…

What happens when it reaches the state where to connect is no longer a word/possibility, what happens when connected becomes the new state of affairs?

It makes me think of Wittgenstein’s words: “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” What happens when those limits are expanded in this way? 

(Special thanks to Kevin Kelly for writing the book What Technology Wants, which made me reconsider what it was that I actually knew about technology, and helped me see it in a brand new light.)

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