Friday, July 9, 2010

The Analog Life

"The formula for my happiness: a Yes, a No, a straight line, a goal."

Friedrich Nietzsche

Not long ago I wrote a post contrasting ambiguity and clarity; this came to mind today in response to a video by Dan Ariely that was on Arts and Letters Daily. His point was that online dating is less helpful than it could be because it sorts people by digital, searchable characteristics (think height, religious affiliation, etc.) when our actual experience of others is far more subtly graded: analog.

Indeed, personal sensibilities can be (digitally!) grouped into the analog and the digital. The former sees nothing but continua and shades of gray, while the latter craves contrasts. Think yes and no, good and evil, male and female, liberal and conservative, young and old, rich and poor, sick and well. The mind variably demands and abhors such simplifying, absolute goalposts as frames for experience.

Literature is analog; psychology is digital. Psychoanalysis is analog; medical-model DSM-IV psychiatry is digital. History is analog; politics is digital. The tension between humility and conviction: both seem to be necessary.

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