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by the light of the silvery moon
September 17, 2010, 1:40 pm
Filed under: Experience

Love discovering a new blog….in this presentation Alexander Chung highlights a lovely piece of insight from Aaron Dignan

“one of the great unsettling revelations of the digital age is that we are not snowflakes, that humanity comes in just a few hundred models”

An earlier post examines Experiments without consequences

In 1994, David Hahn began building a nuclear reactor. He would eventually receive international recognition for his work, and a nick-name to boot: the ‘radioactive boy scout’.

Indeed, David was a teenager playing with radioactive materials in his mother’s backyard shed. And his recognition was for creating an environmental hazard not a new source of energy.

In later life, his bootstrap experiments led to some emotional and physical harm–exposure to radiation leaving severe scars all over his face.

The need to discover is usually a positive trait.

But, when your subject matter is dangerous and your lab doesn’t protect you or others, experiments are a bad idea.

My impression of this David Hahn chap is that with the addition of those scars he was radiating more than just the breakdown of nuclear particles he was also clearly communicating one of Nature’s Natural Warning Signals. Stay Well Away is loudly written across his face.

In my head then, these two pieces started to create a harmony with an earlier post of mine: foundations of taxonomy

In the Amazon….. hunters who could smell animal urine at forty paces and tell you what species left it behind. You look at the Polynesian seafarers who could, just by reading the ocean like a series of rivers which is how they saw the currents, by looking at the rhythm of the waves, they could sense the presence of a distant atoll far beyond the horizon. You talk about how, even the taxonomy of the Amazonian shaman, when they begin to characterize and systematize creation, particularly with some of their sacred plants. For example, one of the most important Amazonian plants is something called Ayahuasca, which is a Liana and, to the botanical eye, there’s one main species that’s used. But that species is actually, by at least one tribe that I know, the Sienna Sequoia(?), they recognize 17 different types of it. Now, to our scientific taxonomic eye, they’re all referable based on morphological traits to the same species. Indistinguishable. They consistently distinguish them and from great distances in the forest. And you ask them what is the foundation of their taxonomy? And they’ll say to you, “Well, you take each one on the night of the full moon and it sings to you in a different key.”

The notion that I’m chewing on is taxonomies of humanity how the ‘few hundred models’ of people could be a visual map, how you could gauge a person with a ‘taxanomic eye’ and be able to parse morphological and behavioral traits and be able to consistently distinguish species.

I’m thinking that it’s pretty handy to use a practice of bricolage and pirate treasure to start to characterize, systematize and distinguish not only the person but the context that holds them.  I can’t help but notice that it’s only by shining the light on behavior in context (or ‘by the light of the full moon’) that allows you to hear the song that they’re singing.


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