Saturday, August 25, 2007

Revolutionary New Punctuation Mark

With the constant evolution of spoken language, the written form is often left in a more conservative position. As is common with urban slang, it takes time before it's accepted and eventually incorporated within some orthographic structure.

Irony and sarcasm, are often lost on the written form. Some forms, such as satire, are nuanced, and they feed on the confusion and difficulties in understanding it. Other forms of irony, such as sarcasm, can often go unnoticed, and frequently the intention of the author is completely misconstrued due to a misunderstanding of tone. Through spoken word, we can inflect various parts of the sentence, to reflect the sarcasm, or irony that we seek. However, written, it becomes very difficult to determine the moment of inflection and therefore, it is frequently improperly interpreted.

My solution would be the addition of a New Punctuation Mark, I shall call the IRONY MARK. Looking at the keyboard, there is a symbol that is infrequently used, and can substitute, if not be eventually used as the Irony Mark. This would be the "~" symbol. Also, borrowing from the Armenian written language, where the punctuation mark is not placed at the end of the sentence, but at the point of inflection, the ~ symbol would be placed within the sentence, where the turn of voice would occur. For example, in English, one would say "Does anybody know where the car is?", but in Armenian, the question mark (which is a different symbol) would be placed where the voice is inflected within the sentence. Does anybody know? where the car is. Furthermore, the inflection could be on another part of the sentence, and therefore, the question mark would be adjusted accordingly. One could also say "Does? anybody know where the car is. Or "Does anybody? know where the car is. Or even, Does anybody know where the car? is.

Having considered the previous examples, we can therefore attempt to determine how one would use the Irony mark. Would we place it, like the question mark in English, at the end of the sentence,? Or, should we place it where the inflection of the voice occurs? For example, the statement "Through his amazing insight, he was able to locate the car after 3 hours" would probably be used sarcastically. Therefore, the Irony mark could be used as follows: "Through his amazing~ insight, he was able to locate the car after 3 hours". If we would place the Irony mark at the end of the sentence, it would still be recognized as a sarcastic statement, but the nuance and subtle voice chance would be lost. What is irony without the powerful tool of the subtle change of voice? We could also use the Irony mark where it would be even more necessary. For example "The garden tomatoes were the best~ tasting ones I've ever~ had." Here, we could use two Irony marks to recognize that this statement was truly a sarcastic remark. A final example to illustrate the need of the Irony mark will highlight why it should be used for more then just sarcasm. In a situational Irony, the Irony mark could be used to enhance and "flavor" a statement. "Even in the worst of times, she had~ to be a hard worker because very few were able to determine just how she was able to purchase the new mansion down the street." Here, the irony in this situation is itself located with the Irony mark. This sentence can now be read with suspicion of some form of unmentioned implication. The irony in this example, would be that she wasn't a hard worker, and must have earned the money for the mansion through some means as yet unmentioned and perhaps sinister or clandestine. The purists will say that subtlety will be lost with the irony mark, but I believe that with any loss, there can also be benefits. Determining if the benefits outweigh the losses will be up to those who can perpetuate this new Punctuation Mark. Perhaps it will be used only informally, but I believe that even then, it can add to the richness and variety of the written language

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Limits on Perception and Scope

As early modern human evolved from the African savannah, certain aspects of the environment were engrained in our functional abilities. Thanks to the wonders of natural selection, traits that aided in the survival of our species perpetuated, and those that lead to a dead end (genetically speaking) were discarded. Certain aspects of our current psyche, dates back to our early progenitors, and no amount of civilized life, whether in an Urban Environment, or even in the middle of a 100 million dollar yacht located somewhere in the Indian Ocean, can fully extract us from our evolutionary past.

Certainly, from the evolution of our modern brain, particular traits were perpetuated, which counter the immense world that we are bombarded with on a daily basis. In essence, our brains are limited in both Perception and Scope from the knowledge which we obtain on a daily basis. We have a difficult time discerning things that are too far from our perceptional and reasoning abilities. Quantum Mechanics for example, in many ways is counterintuitive to our daily experience, because we are creatures of a larger level. If we exponentially increase the scale of our experiences, at a greater macro level, then even those levels which we can comprehend become counterintuitive. In general, if we look at the physical world at the smallest subatomic scales, then most of what we know as solid, is empty space. An atom is, for the most part, nearly empty. At the same time, if we increase the scale of our experience to that which involves galactic clusters, then most of space as we know it is itself empty as well. In fact, only 4% of the universe is made of luminous matter -- that which we can see and interact with.

Having discussed the ramifications of our limited biological brains in processing the physical universe (especially in scales that we don't encounter on a daily life), even our processing abilities on our own humanistic level is suspect. We as a species evolved, along with our brains, to interact with small clans, and analyze other groups on a limited level. It becomes immensely difficult when we decide to analyze a population that's larger then our brains biological tolerance limit. For example, economics is a difficult subject, specifically because in some ways it's an emergent phenomenon. From the actions of individuals, to actions of small groups, to larger groups, eventually a large-scale phenomenon is developed, that can be applied globally. Yet at this level, simple analysis fails us, because of certain emergent properties of large scale chaotic behavior. Just as nearly empty space at the subatomic level can lead to physical interactions that we, at our middle level are aware of, certain small scale trends can eventually lead to a higher system that seems independent in some ways. Typically, this is what's considered an emergent property. Similarly, the neurons in our brain, simulate the real physical world around us, and in doing so, activate what we know as thought, or consciousness. The exact mechanism is still unknown, but chances are, emergent phenomenon are at play. From what may be gathered, Emergent Properties, are aspects of our attempts at defining phenomenon that exceed our scopes and perceptions.

Looking at various examples that we encounter on a daily basis, can help illuminate us, into the limitations on our mental scope. First, let's consider the information from the rest of the world that we're bombarded with on a daily basis. Looking through various web sites that suit our needs, we are exposed to news of wars, famine, celebrity gossip, disease, mass death, plane crashes half a world away, natural disasters, etc. We have become global information filters, and initially, it may seem normal, but having evolved as small hunter and gatherer clans, it's mentally very taxing trying to keep up with all the global information. The mentally taxing aspect comes from having to deal with phenomenon that are beyond our mental scope. This is not to say that we cannot achieve some form of understanding, but it becomes harder and harder, with more inclusive information. Secondly, we can look at our individual daily interactions and realize how limited we are in scope. Police for example deal with a proportionally higher criminal element then for example, butchers. In that respect, an officer can perceive the whole world as more criminally biased, then a butcher. In the same token, a gastroenterologist, because of his daily interaction with ulcerative patients, will assume that a greater proportion of the population suffers, then the actual number of people. Ultimately then, SCIENCE frees us of these patterns of thought. A doctor can look at research papers that illustrate just how many percent of the population suffers from ulcers. Even with his limited scope, his reliance on science will help keep in unbiased and retain some measure of true perspective. Similarly, an officer can look at certain crime statistics and realize that although it appears that murders seem to have increased, maybe his interaction with certain cases make it seem so, when in fact, they're on the decline.

Ultimately, our reliance on empirical evidence and the scientific principle wills us to achieve perceptional ability and scope beyond our limited examples. Although the information that we receive may be excessive, and our mind may strain to understand counterintuitive properties of the universe, or subatomic matter, economics, consciousness, or even linguistic development, we will ultimately benefit from the accumulated wealth of scientific knowledge. Irrational beliefs (I'm not going to mention religion, even though I just did), are often a result of our limited scope and perception. Though difficult, we can break free of our mental chains, by allowing ourselves the freedom of exploring both the large, the small, and the absurd.