Culture Magazine

In This Brave New World (the Twitterverse)...

By Bbenzon @bbenzon
... a mathematician, a philosopher, and a science fiction writer went into a bar...
Well, not exactly. As the title says, it was cyberspace. And they didn't go into it. They just reached out and touched it, and were there. The mathematician is Mark Changizi, Tim Morton is the philosopher, and Adam Roberts: science fiction writer. I've met and know each of them in cyberspace, at different times and places. I've actually met Tim in real geophysical space as well.
Anyhow, I was hanging out in the Twitter Saloon and these three entered. That is to say, just a few moments ago I sent them the following string of tweets:
I'm wondering, Mark, if hanging out in 'cyberspace' will change people's 'natural' intuitions about space? Our basic intuitions about space derive from the physical world. But that space, what IS that space, anyhow? /1
As a mathematician and psychologist you know that those are not simple questions. However, in middle school we learn Euclidean geometry in 2 dimensions and pick up a third later. We tend to think of that as "real" space. /2
Then, depending on this and that, many of us will pick up a smattering of other geometries. Add a 4th dimension, drop the parallel postulate, etc. We may even pick up a smattering of topology. /3
Thus '6 degrees of separation' has been in circulation for so long and so widely that it has a fairly secure place in pop intellectual culture. And that's topology. That's social media. When we make & break friends.. /4 this space, send messages to 1,3, many, all, etc. we're moving about and manipulating this space. We do so 'naturally', 'intuitively'. Think of those intuitions as the ground on which to construct formal mathematical knowledge. /5
The physical symbols and gestures we use to do this via the 'man-machine interface' form the concrete trace of those intuitions. Relatively young children are doing this. Are their minds being readied for new things? /6
And now, leaping over several tall buildings, we have Tim Morton over there writing about 'hyperobjects' of which climate change is his paradigm example. What do you get when you cross climate change with topology? Hyperobjects. /7
A science fiction writer (Adam Roberts), a philosopher (Tim Morton), a mathematician (Mark Changizi). The new "A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou"? /8
I have no idea whether or not any of those will lead to a discussion. As the Indian (played by Chief Dan George) said in that movie (Little Big Man), "Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't".

If you're interested, you can pick up the conversation here:
The thing about Twitter is that everyone is just around the corner, if you know they're there. If you don't know them, then they might as well be halfway across the universe (and generally are). @MarkChangizi @arrroberts @the_eco_thought — Bill Benzon (@bbenzon) November 27, 2017

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