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1111 Simplified Worlds

1111 Simplified Worlds

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Published by Richard Ostrofsky

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Published by: Richard Ostrofsky on Feb 17, 2012
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02/17/2012

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The Simplified World
from Richard Ostrofskyof Second Thoughts Bookstore (now closed)www.secthoughts.comquill@travel-net.com November, 2011"Humankind cannot bear very much reality." Eliot doesn'thave this quite right. What he should have said is thathumans needs to have their reality shrunk down to amanageable level of complexity, still correct enough for theimmediate purpose at hand. Actually, human beings endurea whole lifetime's worth of reality, and most do it fairlywell. Of, course, we die of reality eventually, but somehowwe bear even the most miserable lives and deaths, and findways of making ourselves happy – or less miserable, at anyrate. We evolved to cope with human reality; and after all,what choice do we have?But we really do need to simplify reality for human purposes, and we have a hundred artful ways of doing so.For example:We represent reality with language and metaphor, andwith symbols of every kind. We know that language over-generalizes and distorts, but we make constant use of itanyway.Similarly with maps and diagrams, which alwaysrepresent and emphasize some aspects of reality whiledeliberately glossing others.Similarly with games and simulations of all kinds,which function like interactive diagrams – allowing their  participants to enter and 'play' in some deliberately safer and simpler world.Math is an extraordinarily powerful means of intellectual simplification – seeking to capture andcalculate with the bare structure of a building or process or situation while ignoring its messy particulars. Think otrigonometry, for a (simple) example, which allows thesurveyor to calculate the height of a mountain or the widthof a river, by measuring just one angle, given the length of a known rope or chain. Think of tensor calculus, themathematical language of general relativity, for a moredifficult example.

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