strange questions I don’t have the time to work through

The new academic year has started and teaching is going well. But between the teaching, working through the mathematical questions on the list, aikido and the various writing projects, and life, there isn’t the time to ponder and speculate on the random questions that meander through the alleys of mind.

And so I thought I’d put a few of them down here. It may be that these questions have been explored to some greater or lesser extent by others, in which I would appreciate the knowledgeable reader dropping a comment and pointing me to some appropriate references. But even if not, I’d be interested in any thoughts you might have.

1. Chess has an interesting ranking system, in which a player earns (acquires perhaps) a ranking based on the rankings of the players they defeat and the players to whom they lose in combat on the 8×8 arena. From what little I know (I know the rules of chess but I don’t play enough to have a ranking), this ranking is dynamic, and so here’s a question.

There is a significant body of evidence that one of the impacts of covid-19 is shorter or longer term cognitive impairment. Has anyone conducted a study, correlating changes to chess rankings with (perhaps self reported) covid-19 infection. It might be difficult to do something retrospectively, but it seems to me that there might be an interesting project here, even if it were only to get underway now.

2. I have an old question that is set out here

3. In English, ‘we’ is a remarkably nuanced word. There is the ‘we’ of me and you but not them; there is the ‘we’ of the collective of all of us now alive on Earth; there is the ‘we’ of everyone who is or has been; there is even the ‘we’ of me and none of you but unnamed others; and others as well.

So here’s the question: to what extent does the story of human civilization run parallel to the broadening the definition of ‘we’. Naively, I think there’s an argument to be made that ‘we’ would have been an extraordinarily interesting word in early human cities, when we were used to living in much smaller, much closer groups.

What for me is particularly interesting at the present time is how acceptable definitions of ‘we’ seem to be narrowing. Or at least, that’s one way of interpreting some aspects of the news.

4. And then there are doomsday devices, for instance money and agriculture, which I haven’t thought about in far too long.

~ by Jim Anderson on 9 October 2022.

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