Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Hiatus Experiment

My head already feels muddled even before I start.

The hiatus experiment I'm trying today is two-pronged, or maybe it's two separate experiments. And I need to say them quick before I forget: 1) If I quit everything am I still here? 2) If this blog post had been memorized in advance, would I have been able to type it as efficiently as I am now without forgetting any of it? OK, that's down in black and white, so I won't forget that much.

Let me start with "one" first. "If I quit everything am I still here?" This is where the muddled feeling comes in, because a question like this has lots of binds. Like what do all the words of the question even mean? Quitting, I, everything, here. I can't tackle all that! But I think the issue is not to stir up a lot of logical hubbub about words, but to wonder what happens to me if I were to persist in this hiatus without end, perhaps at some point calling it permanent retirement?

Would I still be here? If "here" means posting the blog on a more or less daily basis, of course if I were to quit, I wouldn't be here except for my archives. That's simple enough and really would go without saying. If I were to go into permanent retirement, would I still be "here," like sitting here? That's a simple geographical question. I might still be here, sitting here, reading other things. I'm not going to quit "everything," like I'll still be reading, eating, and scratching where it itches.

(None of this has any of the wonder I felt when this experiment occurred to me. When I thought of the experiment, I was thinking of myself vanishing, like in the movie "Back To The Future," like if my parents didn't meet. But there's no real connection -- except whatever my online persona is to readers -- between my existence as a living person and whether I'm on hiatus from this blog or not. Again, my logical, clear-thinking side is vetoing the weird fantasy at the basis of the experiment's original idea.)

Think of all kinds of things I could be doing besides this. Like five years ago, I could have decided to go around the county painting water pumps pink. I didn't. But let's say that was the decision I made five years ago. Would I then be wondering, five years later, that were I to stop painting water pumps pink, that somehow I wouldn't still be here? It's absurd. There's no real connection between me painting pumps and my being here. And that's just one possibility. I could come up with a fantasy of a thousand different activities, that just because they were possible, the fact that they didn't happen, and the fact that I'm still here, shows that there's no correlation between any of those activities and my continual existence, perceived by some knowing, apparently cognizant entity, familiarly termed as myself.

All right, I think that's exhausted, but it would be fun to come up with a list of the thousand different activities I could've done! The answer to the experiment is "Yes, I would still be here were I to quit."

The second question is more interesting. If I had memorized this blog post in advance, which didn't exist, would I have been able to type it word for word as efficiently and flawlessly as I'm typing it right now?

That stirs up a lot of mental sagebrush, up there rolling around, rolling into a campfire and catching the tent on fire, to the point that there's a complete conflagration of my thinking cap. Now that my cap is burning, I can't think. But I must try before the fire consumes everything...

The blog post didn't exist, so there was nothing to memorize. The experiment would mean that I would have to imagine each word of the post in sequence, then memorize what I was thinking of, so that it would match exactly. This would be the equivalent of writing it like I'm doing now, except just as an imagined and remembered whole. If I were able to do that, the answer is "Yes, I could also sit here and type it as efficiently and flawlessly as I'm typing it right now." In fact I could do it more efficiently because there'd be no composing, only transcribing.

After all, typing is just a mechanical process. It has mental aspects. But what I'd be more interested in is whether a million blind monkeys typing on a million keyboards would write this blog post word for word as efficiently and flawlessly as I'm writing it right now were I to tell them what to type? Of course it would depend on how well they were able to type, whether they understood what I told them, and whether their memories were good. Could all million get the job done? I'm sure it would be less than a million. Remember, they're blind, and blind monkeys would have to make lots of typing mistakes.

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