Manichaeus

1 November 2017

Your experiments are precise, controlled
against extraneous variation, and demonstrate
that, judging others, people tend to divide them,
not fifty-fifty but asymmetrically,
so that negation figures optimally
against a broader ground of affirmation:
at thirty-eight to sixty-two, your determined ratio
borders the irrationality of the golden mean.
Yet it’s as if you’ve done your work not on earth
but on the cratered landscape of the moon,
where a brutal terminator cuts
a desiccated dazzle from ungraded dark,
and there’s no air, no cloud, no smoke,
to dull the keenness of its edge with greys
or allow a worldly ambiguity
of bluey-green or greeny-blue.
Anecdotal; not open to confirmation
by statistical analysis
, you say contemptuously,
when I tell you I have learned, from introspection
and by simply asking, that people judge
in terms not of digitised dichotomies,
but of a fuzzily-recalled totality of experience
tested for fit against a slew of concepts
(meanness, dishonesty, friendliness, and the like)
whose composition is variable and indeterminate,
like early telescopes’ images of Mars.
It’s as if you’ve been cultured
in a genetic broth of pre-Socratics,
Shannon, Weaver and Fibonacci,
and believe, without any reflection
from the tarnished, shivering mirror of reality,
the binary cloak of theory and experiment you’ve assumed
is proper dress for a voyage of exploration.
With bearing set (not, as you suppose, for a continent
but for an archipelago), you carry on,
shouting your creed into an opposing wind’s salty spit,
your truths garbed in those tatty hand-me-downs,
vicariousness and myth.


Claude Shannon was a pioneer in the development of information theory and computerisation, in which (binary) digitisation was of critical importance. Warren Weaver helped to make the theory more intelligible to a general readership.

 


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