Illuminati -- enlightened ones --- brings to mind Robert Anton Wilson novels, conspiracy theory (and a fine Mel Gibson movie of the same name), and the intriguing card game by Steve Jackson (a fellow student at Rice University with me in the early 1970s --- coincidence?).

As I found Wilson's books virtually unreadable yet appealing, so also I found the Illuminati card game virtually unplayable. Yet it's such outrageous fun to mess around with secret interconnections! What if the Boy Sprouts were actually in charge of the Nuclear Power Companies, which in turn pulled the strings that controlled the Cycle Gangs and the Fast Food Chains? Suppose the Joggers got hold of the Ark of the Covenant and thereby could trigger a Giant Meteor Strike? Maybe the Gnomes of Zurich have taken over the Telephone Psychics and, via them, the Bank of England? The mind boggles.

As Edward Rothstein describes a new Neal Stephenson novel, Quicksilver:

Noah's Ark," reads one card. "The pharynx and its outgrowths," reads another. "Pantomime" and "Testes" say two others. And then there are "Nonsymmetrical dyadic relations," "Sunspots" and "Requirements for valid maritime insurance contracts."

The cards are stacked precariously in a cabin in Newtowne, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in 1713 where a philosopher, Daniel Waterhouse, is trying to organize all of human knowledge. Each card is also inscribed with a number. And just as each number is a unique product of prime numbers, so, in this system, is each concept a unique product of elemental concepts. For every number there's a concept, for every concept a number.


... if all the world's knowledge could be encoded in number, then the acts of creation and invention would just be forms of calculation. And the world would reveal itself as a calculating machine, an information processor.

This echoes Stephen Wolfram's attempt to reduce all of science to cellular automata. (see CombinatorialInterference, 10 Sep 2003) But as Barry's Second Law states, "All double features work." (see BarryLawsAndPrecepts, 18 Aug 2001)

The mind can connect any two concepts, as a straight line connects any two points. But three arbitrary points don't in general lie on a line, and three arbitrary topics aren't likely to define a coherent theme. When they seem to, there's going to be some (perhaps subtle) linkage or pattern among them ... or human delusion.

(see Rothstein's essay in the 20 Sep 2003 New York Times)

TopicThinking - TopicHumor - 2003-09-24

(correlates: FreakingTheMundanes, HalloweenEqualsChristmas, ProstrateOrganism, ...)