Inference: a conclusion or opinion that is formed because of known facts or evidence; the act of passing from statistical sample data to generalizations (as of the value of population parameters) usually with calculated degrees of certainty; the act of passing from one proposition, statement, or judgment considered as true to another whose truth is believed to follow from that of the former.
A few days ago, i mentioned the notion of powerful ideas emerging from a series of ‘logical conclusions.’ Have you ever read, seen, or experienced something so uniquely similar to something you yourself daydreamed about, possibly years prior to the attention-grabbing simulacrum that sparked your memory in the first place? Maybe heard an observational joke so akin to a specific situation you’d been involved in, it elicits a deeper kind of laughter? That’s just one example. By the time you reach the end of this, a few more may come to mind.
There is a short story i read years and years ago. i want to say the author was H.P. Lovecraft but i’m not certain about that. That being said, the likelihood he’s the writer takes a nosedive. My guesses are almost always incorrect. For instance i might be desperately struggling to recall a name or title.
“i want to say it starts with ‘R.'” i offer a helpful insight. It’s on the tip of my tongue!
“Canvendish!” Exclaimed with gusto. You can almost see the lightbulb over their head.
“i don’t know where i got ‘R’ from.” What a goof. Starts with an ‘R.’ Where’d that come from?!
Anyway, in the story, a man had an uncanny ability. When someone spoke, he could trace their thought processes backwards to the original thought that led to the spoken word. Sort of like super-psychic deduction. Mind-reading, in a sense. Popular as a parlor trick from what i recall, and if Lovecraft is the author, probably a pinch of cosmic insanity as well. i think he could elaborate on what they would think next as well.
Perhaps passe given a predilection to provide, sometimes push, our perspective on the population.
Advertising employs this sort of technique to get us to buy stuff. Criticism is leveled at advertisers often enough that it’s designed to make us buy stuff we don’t need. On the one hand, the humor here is, well…duh! There’s not a laundry list of things we do need.
In another sense, is it fair to put that on the advertisers of things? At the very least, they’re people too and subject to the same forces. What’s interesting to me is the interaction of consumers and advertisers vis-a-vis…livre and other social media. All the shared ideas are just floating around out there for makers to get their take by making what the takers take. Ads aren’t always necessarily telling us what we want – we do our fair share of telling them what we want too. Proper analysis of our likes and dislikes leads to some logical conclusions and reveals a whole lot about what appeals to us.
In fact, just yesterday i saw one of those TV commercials that leaves you wondering “what was that commercial for?” The gist was that we’re all unique individuals with a myriad of interests and opinions, so why should products be targeted to the lowest common denominator? If i recall correct, it wound up an advertisement for IBM Global Business Services. At the end, they flash the Watson logo to let you know there’s a supercomputer doing the work for you – no messy human involvement.
There’s a DC Comics supervillain called Major Disaster. At least i think he’s the one i’m thinking of; i want to say it starts with a ‘D.’ If that’s the guy on my mind, it’s from a fuzzy memory of a comic that begins with the ne’er-do-well on a rooftop, praising himself in grandiose fashion via thought balloons. Satisfied and sufficiently self-deluded, he leans over the edge and drops a coin down to the street below. A Rube Goldberg-like series of events ensues, resulting in a terrible accident. Possibly it’s an Aquaman comic, post-Underworld Unleashed, but i can’t be sure.
At the risk of over-simplifying a Faustian cross-over comics event that augmented the abilities of no small number of villains – and a handful of heroes too – wasn’t Paul Booker basically doing the same thing as our mysterious short story antagonist?
“If I drop this coin, right here and now, it will make that jogger stumble, and the car will slam on the brakes, and yadda yadda yadda the airplane will crash into the submarine and everyone onboard both will be killed. That’ll show the King of the Seven Seas!”
Why you gotta mess with Arthur Curry, man? Let leave the man and his fish be.
Always comes back to comics, doesn’t it?
i can’t tell you how many times i’ve been creeped out reading about visions of the future as written half a century ago. Virtual worlds will exist for the sole purpose of collected demographic data. Identities lost from the memory of even those you know when you’re information is erased from the grid. A population of workers who exist only to manufacture robotic servants and mechanical or electronic conveniences for the elite few. Arrests made in advance of any actual wrong-doing, based on assumptions garnered through observation.
Okay, that first one there isn’t PKD, but it’s an appropriate inclusion. These authors of fiction, more than a few of whom suffered from multiple mental disorders, nevertheless imagined a futuristic world not altogether unlike the era we’re now living. The seeds of ideas that technology could lead to dystopia have been germinating in the air for more than a few decades.
The same sort of reasoning probably manifested back when Gutenberg dropped his signature device on the world back in the 15th century. And just think – if he hadn’t, the cover inlay on this 1977 progressive rock album would have been meticulously hand-written on each one. Considering it went platinum, that’s a lot of quills dipped in a lot of inkwells.
THE STORY OF THE RISE OF THE MACHINE AND THE DECLINE OF MAN, WHICH PARADOXICALLY COINCIDED WITH HIS DISCOVERY OF THE WHEEL…AND A WARNING THAT HIS BRIEF DOMINANCE OF THIS PLANET WILL PROBABLY END, BECAUSE MAN TRIED TO CREATE ROBOT IN HIS OWN IMAGE
***Spoiler alert – expect an expansion on that in, naturally, the future***
Nowadays, whenever i think of ideas floating around in the air, it strikes me that they are quite literally floating around all about us. They surround us, penetrate us, and bind the galaxy together…
…Wait, that’s not right. Or is it?
As early as 1881, innovations in communication technology have put signals into the ether as mankind sought to increase the power to connect with one another over space. Here we are, more than a decade into the 21st century, continuously pelted by information traveling invisibly through the air, across the electromagnetic spectrum, bouncing off satellites, and passing through us. If it stopped for even a brief moment, the world as we’ve come to know it would…well i don’t want to say crumble, but stress fracture? Maybe a little. In light of that, i’d say it qualifies as a binding agent.
Maybe that’s a factor in the increase in these ‘logical conclusions.’ Just as the printing press changed the world in so many ways, so has the communication technology that we’ve seen grow so rapidly that it can no longer be reliably calculated. And thanks to technology, now the information is literally all around us, saturating our very physical selves. If an idea is a ‘thing’ – could it leave part of itself behind, inside of us?
Due to the exponential growth rate of technology, the 21st century is predicted to experience the equivalent of 20,000 years of progress over its 100 year span. Given that, i think it’s safe to say the world in 100 years is effectively unimaginable to us right now. Say what you will, but at least Philip K. Dick, Buck Rogers, and Tex Avery’s speculations were recognizable.
Science fiction writers and futurists of today probably have a difficult time themselves conceiving of what lies ahead. By the time their remarkable thought constructs reach an audience, existing technology will likely surpass whatever they could imagine. On the other hand, there’s already a correlation between science fiction and fact.
Did you know that several of today’s technological advancements came about as a result of Star Trek? It’s true! More than a few kids who marveled at the adventures of Captain Kirk and crew became inspired by the fantasy, and their paths in life were defined by the inspiration to bring what they saw into the real world. And, while that article about the franchise’s contributions to technology is enlightening, you can disregard the advice to “forget about a transporter” – there are breakthroughs on that as well.
Heck, even replicators aren’t too far off.
If there’s one inherent flaw in this analysis it’s this – these logical consequences are really only recognizable in retrospect. How any single idea will play out, or if it catches on at all, is up in the air. Or floating around in it. No human mind can accurately predict with certainty what will develop out of a thought or concept. There’s simply too many variables involved.
But curiously, the human mind has devised the ever-increasingly powerful computer to which we turn as a nigh-reflex reaction in just about every situation. Where to eat, where to shop, what movie to see, what was the name of that actor again?
Possibly, the answer to this question of conclusions lies in the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy. What we think of this today was cemented into the social conscious in 1949 by sociologist Robert K. Merton. In his book Social Theory and Social Structure, he distilled the ages-old concept into a simple idea – that whether positive or negative, a strongly held belief may sufficiently influence people so their reactions ultimately fulfill the once-false prophecy. Even more simply, as his predecessor in the field theorized…
“If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences”
Usually, this concept is invoked in a negative way. A self-fulfilling prophecy typically serves as a parable, or cautionary tale, to avoid causing an event through overly strong belief in the undesirable result. What intrigues me is the power of positivism included in the definition. For example, studies have shown that a teacher who instills confidence in students and regularly reinforces the idea that they are intelligent and capable of success has a direct effect on performance. Students who are told they have the ability to accomplish course goals tend to meet those goals.
That’s pretty cool.
i enjoy encountering those moments in life that occur as logical consequences. Sometimes it’s stumbling across Jim Mahfood’s pre-Fight Club social anarchy comic. Other times seeing Leonardo DiCaprio swipe my tagline for The Aviator.
One time i was talking with a friend about logical consequences. A few days later i started writing about it. My thoughts turned to advertising, and how we contribute to the industry through our Maslow-like need to share ourselves and connect with others. Then i saw a commercial for an ultra-powerful computer that uses our pro-offered divulgence to aid advertisers. And why not? It’s simply a logical consequence.
* * * * *
That’s it for me this week. Note – i consider Sunday the last day of the week, not the first. Kinda like how it’s not the next day until you go to sleep and wake up again.
That being said, i’m looking forward to this coming week because i’ve got another brain-picking session lined up. This time around, i get to speak with a type of person i’ve long found to be thoroughly fascinating – the stand-up comedian. As the ultimate disdainers of 9 to 5 grinds, i can’t help but consider their lifestyle appealing. Travel, autonomy, and your job is to make people laugh. Yeah, yeah, yeah – i know it’s super difficult, and risky, and fraught with challenges and at least a dash of darkness. But hey, that’s life. Might as well laugh at it.
Thanks for reading!