Sometimes I get the impression that there all the outperforming which we are facing and which we are asked to join is best captured by Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker‘s Guide to the Galaxy. I recently found a nice version of the little story concerning the magic 42, translated here:
A well advanced extraterritorial culture strives to answer the ultimate question, namely the question concerned with the foundation of and reason behind ‘life, the universe and everything’. The supercomputer Deep Thought is built. After calculating for 7.5 million years Deep Thought comes up with the answer „42“.
Deep Thought replies to the baffled constructors that the question had not been sufficiently clear, and proposes to build an even large computer, able to find an appropriate question to which „42“ is the answer. it turns out that this larger computer is actually the planet earth.
Here the original:
Eine weit fortgeschrittene außerirdische Kultur sucht die Antwort auf die Frage aller Fragen, nämlich jene nach „life, the universe and everything“. Dazu baut sie den Supercomputer Deep Thought. Nach einer Rechenzeit von 7,5 Millionen Jahren erbringt Deep Thought die Antwort „42“.
Auf die Ratlosigkeit der Erbauer hin entgegnet Deep Thought, dass die Frage nicht präzise gestellt worden sei und schlägt vor, einen noch größeren Computer zu bauen, der fähig ist, die zur Antwort passende Frage zu finden. Dieser Computer wird gebaut und das Programm zur Suche der Frage auf die Antwort wird gestartet. Es stellt sich heraus, dass dieser noch größere Computer der Planet Erde ist.
In other words – more in the formulation of systems theory: we re producing an increasing number of empty spaces, in order to fill them with the same emptiness. And instead of really arriving at public spaces, we establish in two ways pseudo-and quasi-public places
- by charismatisation of individuals and institutions, leading to the ‘obligation’ that being part of it is the main thing – one has to publish in THEIR vicinity, one has to GO TO the events WITH THEM, one has to know HERHIM … – name dropping as the other, i.e. personal droppings are considered to be and are made meaningless.
- and then there is the perpetuation of this charismatic fields of hegemony: who did not read THAT, who had not been THERE, who did not know ALREADY … – All this is, of course not about the factual but the somewhat virtual. If WE write and say something, it becomes only meaningful if THEY stated it already , and if WE say something meaningful it remains an empty phrase as long as it is not quoted. – I am not talking about the gained meaning by spreading the word – that is a purely quantitative aspect and as true as it is that things we think without letting others know are equally meaningless as the most stupid things even of they are published ‘properly’. It is better to be a footnote that everybody can see than being a sapience crawling serpently in the stash. And who does not belong to this and that who-is-who-social-network, can prove a certain number of friends, fans, supporters, follower is nearly non-existent – the social-network-death, which can only be beaten by brain death.
But how much is really new and how much is really limited to the academic world?