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Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Fundamental Dichotomy

Everything, without exception, can be categorized. That in itself is not a startling statement — unless there exists a fundamental dichotomy! This is abundantly clear if you think about it for a moment or two. For, without further ado, if there was not a fundamental dichotomy, then clearly, the fundamental top level classification (or top level taxonomy) would be: everything that exists or can be conceived of in the universe; and that, of course, is a degenerate classification, where "degenerate" is, in this context, a technical term meaning "being mathematically simpler (as by having a factor or constant equal to zero) than the typical case".

At this point, many people would be inclined to jump up and exclaim, with some indignation, "Of course, TheBigHenry, everyone knows that the fundamental quantifiable entity is information, which is the fundamental unit of entropy, which in turn is at the heart of one of the fundamental universal laws of nature, namely the Second Law of Thermodynamics. And, as anyone knows, anyone who is even remotely familiar with how computers acquire, process, and store information, the fundamental unit of information is a bit. And, every bit of information is binary — its value is either a zero (0) or a one (1). The rest is mathematics.

But, that is not the dichotomy I have in mind. There are quite a few others that spring to mind: male/female; up/down; left/right; positive/negative; animal/vegetable/mineral (which, of course, is not a dichotomy but a trichotomy). None of the foregoing is more fundamental than the binary bit of information. But, what I have in mind is something that is more fundamental.

I submit that the fundamental dichotomy is dimensionality itself. Everything in the universe, including everything that can be conceived, either has an implicit dimensionality or it doesn't. If it has dimensionality it can, in principle, be measured; if it doesn't, it can not be measured (not even in principle). The reason that dimensionality is more fundamental than even a bit of information is precisely because bits can only describe measurable concepts, concepts that are in some fundamental sense quantifiable (and ultimately digitized). For example, just to invoke one of the most common concepts that virtually everyone is aware of, except, perhaps, those who are completely catatonic, is consciousness. To my knowledge, no one has yet been able to explain it or define it satisfactorily, which in the most basic sense that I can imagine constitutes our inability to quantify it. Consciousness has no dimensionality. Nor, to my knowledge, does love, pornography, hope, and charity, just to name a few other concepts that many people can't define, but everyone, to quote a famous Supreme Court Justice (whose name, at the moment, escapes me), "knows what it is when they see/experience it".

Why does any of this matter? It matters very much for the following reason (and many others too): anything that has dimensionality can be quantified and, therefore, can be marketed (i.e., the market can, in principle, serve as a passive system of allocation for it); anything that does not have implicit dimensionality can not be allocated by a market allocation system. Therein lies the source of our world's contentiousness, and in particular, our society's penchant for litigation and political protest. The issues that invariably lead to controversy between individuals as well as between collective ideologies are those that are not quantifiable. Hence, they are not in principle amenable to market solutions.

What we need is not an alternative to market solutions, which work just fine for quantifiable concepts. We need an alternative solution for disputes that involve non-dimensional issues, other than the old standby — war.

Post #956 The Fundamental Dichotomy

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