When I was in the middle of college, I took a class called “Scientific Issues” or something of that sort.
It was centered around tricky questions involving philosophy and science.
We read about arguments like…..what is considered to be “direct observation” of something?
Is there a hard difference between viewing something with your own eyes, versus looking at it through a microscope? How about with glasses or a telescope? Is there any way directly observe anything in the matter-made world?
Is science weakened by our dependence on tools, or perhaps that is part of its beauty?
It all seems very dragon-headed to me.
Let’s use another example to explain what I mean.
One of these classic arguments was about “portability” of an object. Or maybe it’s just what the professor had gone with that day.
It can be very hard to say what is or is not portable.
I mean, just look at portable gaming systems and media devices.
Obviously, the Game Boy is quite portable, if you’ve got batteries and a light source.
But what about a laptop that needs to be plugged in very often?
How comfortably can you play it in public? In which spaces is it even possible?
Can a device that requires sunlight to work be considered portable?
What if it’s just plain unpleasant to use in a public setting?
If somebody thinks the Nintendo Switch is too big and unwieldy and uncomfortable to flip out and start playing out in the open….is their opinion valid?
How much upkeep and carefulness is required before a medical device is considered to be portable or not?
Is the patient’s opinion valid or the doctor’s, if you asked them both if it was portable?
If you could shrink down and sneak into someone’s pocket, would you be portable, if no one was trying to exploit your portability?
Are all people portable if someone, somewhere can pick them up?
Is mobility a form of portability? Do you have to be in something moving to be portable?
Is there Earth a portable piece of the solar system, because the solar system itself is moving?
Such a fun argument, really gets your neurons firing, doesn’t it?
Even though it’s hardly much of a scientific issue.
This matter, to me, seems barely capable of any answer.
At its core, this barely seems driven to determine what “portability”
even is. I want to explain why the hell such a discussion would excite you in the first place.
A good theory is that by coming up with a standard definition for portability, we can communicate better, organize better, and be just a smidge more civilized than before.
But I think that strong and clever feeling in your chest when thinking about the weirdness of portability comes from a deep-seated desire to get around the guile of other people.
Obviously, people have different opinions about what makes any device comfortable to carry with you, or serve its purpose outside of a stable indoor environment.
But nobody’s content with that sort of answer. Because if we were, we wouldn’t be so very keen and crafty social animals.
We can feel other people’s jaws clenching with a need to exploit how very unpredictable and wily we can be toward each other.
When making the decision to carry something with you or leave it at home, or use it in public or never do so, or try to figure how to affix it you to keep it from getting swiped out of your hands, we all straddle along the weirdness of the definition of “portable”.
To smuggle any dangerous or disallowed item involves making sacrifices involving raw, physical effort, use of space in objects attached to us, the vulnerability of said item, and especially our ability to manage the actions of anyone wandering into our space.
That making of small sacrifices, and congratulating ourselves for it, lightly, but firmly, makes us feel something more tough and more clever and more interesting than what is normally expected of a human being.
But to me, that sense of being almost otherworldly in your sheer aptitude of being human, is just a part of being an averagely intelligent, developed, considerate, guile-gifted human.
Let me remind you that I do think everyone is much wiser than has been let on.
The debate over portability is only really interesting because it appeals to the ability to grasp the witty wiles of your neighbor.
Even if your mind is blown by your own ability to make accommodations when it comes to how portable something is, and you feel melancholic at the concessions you’ve made when carrying heavy items in a backpack,
at the core is a growling urge to be the sneaky person and not the klutzy oaf.
People are motivated to feel like they are not fools despite their indulgence.
At the center of so much of own sense of wisdom and wit is a seething desire to get around the guile of our friends and enemies and everyone else, and it’s so great, so strong, we’d actually debate whether or not a laptop is considered portable for an entire hour.
And as for the thing about microscope and telescopes and glasses and eyeballs being direct observation devices or not,
it seems like we can’t let the desire to be around the good people, not the bad people escape our scientific discussions.
All of that prattling on very deeply for the sake of feeling like science, somehow,
isn’t as cold and unloving as it might really be.
We still feel that science could be deceptive no matter how many successful experiments happen.
We never seem content to not be trying to work around the sneakiness of someone else.
Even if, and especially if, we love them and they serve us well.
I could hardly blame you, considering how very good we are at applying value to things in a way we know is weird and barely just.
I guess, that desire to be ready to strike back at those closest to us is how we’re trapped,
until we can bottle that passion in the right kind of glass.
Would you help me put this that I’ve described into a flask?
Or are your claws too big and meaty?