I just read Daniel Dennet’s Intuition pumps and other tools for thinking. It never seizes to amaze me how limited the universe of my fancies is, how persistent it is, how I time and again return to teenage roots. I know Dennett from The Mind’s I that he co-edited with Douglas Hofstadter , whose GEB blew me away (have a look here for someone who was equally affected).
A big chunk of the amazement is about the interconnectedness of the denizens of my universe. I look up Dennett on youtube, pops up Douglas Adams, the guy who came up with the best answer ever to the big question about the meaning of it all. How does youtube’s algorithm connect these two? (and yes, algorithm is a Dennett favorite when elaborating on evolution). Is it humor? Dennett recently co-authored a book on using humor to reverse engineer the mind. Haven’t read that one yet but expect to like it a lot. Back to interconnectedness: a long time ago I bought a book by Lee Siegel on India’s comic tradition, the one and only I ever did on humor – no idea why I bought it, it still sits on my shelf unread, but as I now learned, Siegel is a friend of Dennett whom he often quotes (from the work he did on magic), so my then time intuition has a good chance to proof itself right.
Nevertheless, however absorbing Dennett may be, 42 will forever beat the algorithmic approach in dealing with the complexities of life and the universe, nothing better against confusion than a good slap in the face by the zen master. Not by way of a final answer, but by way of cleaning the slate again, because we’ll never be able to bootstrap (yes, I’m not an academic, I liberally use wikipedia to my advantage) ourselves out of our predicament, but we can and will keep trying. We’ll see if Dennett recognizes the slap as one of humor’s main cui bono‘s (sorry that’s what you get when reading philosophers like Dennett, or Taleb for that matter), I doubt it. Which makes me feel good because one doesn’t often get the chance to think something he hasn’t yet thought. Judge for yourself: