In the twenty-second and twenty-third chapters of The Science of Discworld, now I’m thinking of privatives, and my brain hurts. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Oh god MY MIND. So, this is one of those concepts that feels more philosophical than scientific, but! Let me truly open this by pointing out that I correctly guessed that “dark” doesn’t have a speed because it’s the absence of light. This was literally the only thing I felt knowledgable on in the entirety of chapter twenty-two, but that’s okay. This was a learning experience! I am absolutely the sort of person who would have guessed that burning a log would cause it to weigh less than when it started, so I was very impressed by what I read here. EASILY IMPRESSED MARK.
Or, maybe it’s just a lot of fun to be reading a book that is so actively challenging me to rethink things on a consistent basis. Like, the whole bit about reification is not something I think I’ve given any serious thought to. I appreciated that the text made a distinction between the ways that reification held different meanings, though. Debt feels very real to me, given that I’ve been mostly “in” it for the entirety of my adult life. It’s an absurd thing to think about, though, because it isn’t real in any sense beyond this arbitrary economic system that we’ve propped up and supported. I can’t go out and touch my debt or destroy it or move it somewhere else. (Though it certainly has been commodified, and that is a creepy thought. It reminds me of the conversations we’ve been having over on mark Watches re: Person of Interest and the buying/selling of information.) Yet it has a very real affect on me as a person, from my physical and mental state to my ability to do certain things in life. Most of the friends I have these days own property and have mortgages, and that is not even remotely on my radar. That’s a “real” function of debt!
But I don’t think the authors were trying to say that this is all meaningless, because we, as humans, routinely assign meanings to all sorts of things. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that! Nor is it unfair to point out that not having money is a negative thing in our society. As they say:
Air isn’t important if you’ve got it, only if you haven’t; the same goes for money.
We really do live in a world that is of our own making, and sometimes, that world affects other people, too. There’s still a cause and effect that’s at play here, and the Discworld chapter is a great way for us to understand the parallel that’s unfolding. The wizards live in one world but are making a world, too, and they’re trying to shape it in ways that mimic their own. What are the ramifications of that? Well, in this case, it’s life. A primitive, simplistic form of it, and I thought it was hilarious that this wasn’t the “life” that the wizards wanted. But this world of their own making – a metaphorical phrase turned literal here – had unforeseen consequences.
“Do you think, on reflection, that it might not have been a good idea to miniaturize his image in Roundworld?” said Ridcully.
I mean… I’m glad you’re now thinking of what this means, but perhaps this line of questioning would have been earlier??? Oh, well, this is the wizards we’re talking about. They routinely act first and then ponder the result of that act eons later. So… they’re totally going to try to interact with the blobs next, right? RIGHT?
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