The Longest Now


Large-scale order
Sunday January 30th 2005, 12:53 am
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There is a certain orderliness to the large-scale organizations in any
really good novel, history, or description of the future, which I have
never experienced in the present.  I doubt it has existed at very many
points in history.  That we lack not only such order, but also a deep
sense of duty to remedy this absence [feel free to localize this sense
to your region, subspecialty, culture, etc., to match your normal
sphere of influence], fascinates and frustrates me.

I have often wondered why the people with a well-developed sense of the whole — of  million-year timespans and the totality of our geography and planet; our peoples and human interactions; millenia-long economies and scarcities,
fabricated and unavoidable — why these people have so little impact on
the decisions that seem to have the greatest control over the
year-to-year development of our societies and governments.

And I more often wonder why so few of the geniuses I know feel
compelled to identify, sketch out, strive and campaign for, large-scale
order… in their field or in society or just in their favorite
hobbies.  Perhaps the creative spirit lusts after that creative
moment and the act of creation more than the dull completeness of
providing a framework for it all.  Perhaps this is like asking why
there are so few set theorists, and so many fewer who are sane. 
But I don’t think so.  The desire for completeness is deep and ancient
Novels describe societies with all-knowing or all-encompassing
organizations and entities, scientists postulate universal theories,
and religions offer omniscient and omnipresent gods.  This is not
simply because it makes explanations simpler (although it does). 
There is a comforting glory in such completeness that transcends all
other hallmarks of correctness and success.

Perhaps reading this are amused by my naivete, certain that any
practical form of completeness is impossible.  Perhaps you feel
exactly the same way, and have devoted your life to struggling with
grand unifying theories. 

And perhaps you have spent years baffled by the natural opportunities
for completeness in little aspects of the world around you, which are
regularly overlooked or quietly opposed.  If so, I’m looking for
you.  We have work to do.

shards: citations db | wp | knuth | alexander | G |


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