Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Networks

It's a funny old world. One minute we have a documentary explaining how the idea of an Eco-System is a myth the next Stephen Fry and Brian Cox are on Radio Four explaining the nature of complex networks that link us all. There was also a lady on the program who liked to use the word "cluster" a lot. In one particularly unsettling sentence she used it about four times. The long and short of it is that obese people cluster and scientists are trying to map this particular phenomenon. Social scientists she explained are duty bound to go a bit further with their investigations. She didn't get the chance to say how. Perhaps she meant "find out why?". They all chortled at the idea that perhaps they all live near a KFC. Brian cox noted that it might be non-causal and therefore understanding the clustering phenomenon would help. Someone pointed out that seeing everything as connected could lead to paranoia at which point Stephen Fry drew our attention to how in fact the modern novel often demonstrates how we are all connected. He took the example of Dickens' Bleak House which uses money and disease to link people together. Today we have Linked In I mused archly as I sat at my car wheel transfixed.
This program (citation needed) seems to me to be a particularly strong manifestation of the left-brains inability to embrace the realm of metaphor. Stephen Fry quoted from the Bible and said it would be good to treat everyone as your brother. We only need to look at the human genome to see we are connected he went on. There it is. Science as a validation of metaphysical ineffable feelings of being part of a greater whole. If we could all interact on a non competitive level perhaps there would be no more clusters of obese people. Still some overweight people though but no clusters. My point here is that by continually seeing ourselves as a system of networks in a machine-based sense this is what we will become. The act of observing changes the nature of the subject.

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