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Brackishness and Calendar Systems added to the idea list

These are the 7th and 8th ideas added to the list of Ideas I’m Mulling. The other ones are: codex vitae (book of beliefs), prisoner’s dilemma, the capabilities approach, wicked problems, cognitive biases, and productive disagreements.

I added these two together because they are pretty closely related in terms of why I began mulling them. Brackishness (as I think of it) refers to the idea that there are some flows that go in both directions (up/down, in/out, back/forth, etc). Like the Hudson River, that, due to the way the tides interact with the river, changes directions 4 times a day. Like neurons in our brain that both send signals both up and down, activating and repressing. Like conversations, debates, dialogues (at least, the healthy ones) where it’s both about both sharing how our minds are shaped and letting our minds be shaped by others.

One of the strongest and most interesting examples of brackishness in my opinion is the concept of “ontological designing”, which is the basic idea that everything we design in this world, will in turn design us back. We shape our environment to suit us, and then our environment shapes us and influences what we design in the future. This two-way dialogue between us and not-us, which together make up the natural world, can be seen everywhere once you begin to look for it.

That brings us to calendars, and the various inventions we’ve come up with to track and measure and communicate and coordinate about time. They’re one of our first inventions, going back many thousands of years… in some ways they don’t even feel like an idea anymore. Calendars feel like a fundamental part of nature and spacetime. They’re also a perfect example of brackishness in action. We designed our calendar systems to better understand the natural world, and our calendar systems in turn have greatly influenced how we think about the natural world. Seasons map very closely to solar equinoxes and solstices. Months were originally meant to approximate lunar cycles, but now we think of lunar cycles as loosely mapping to months. Weeks, and days of the week, on the other hand, have no counterpart in nature and yet Sunday feels as “real” as Summer. Monday feels as real as May. And, if aliens were observing us from afar, they may be able to observe changes in the world that map to days of the week (traffic patterns, business activity, etc) from space. In a very real way our calendar systems shape nature whether they have any “real” connection to nature at all. In actuality, we are a part of nature, so the systems we create are also a real part of nature.

See the entries for brackishness and calendar systems as they were when this article was published, and as they are now.

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Buster Benson

Buster Benson

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Product at @Medium. Author of “Why Are We Yelling? The Art of Productive Disagreement”. Builder of new.750words.com.