What Shall We Do With The Binary Sailor?

Binary; 1 or 0, yes or no, heads or tails. Without these fundamental concepts, we wouldn’t have the computers we have today. These simple concepts have revolutionised the way we interact with our world and have also played an integral part in our understanding of said world.

Although computers are based on 1’s and 0’s, computer scientists have spent a lot of time and effort trying to expand their capabilities. Logic gates and the like have given computers greater functionality so now we are able to model buildings on our relatively small laptops.

Computers have evolved though. Quantum computers are based on 3 states; yes, no, and maybe. This presents a slight problem for us as regular humans. If we don’t evolve as well then we’re at risk of being surpassed by our own creations. Good and bad are essential pieces of the puzzle that forms our society but are all relative terms at the same time.

You cannot detach your own ideas and beliefs from everything you deem “bad”. I can look at the idea of incest as “bad” but a couple thousand years ago, that would’ve been the best way to ensure that your wealth stayed ‘in-house’ so to speak.

I’d like to think that the binary concept stems from the idea of ultimate good and ultimate evil. ‘If you aren’t with us then you’re against us’. Christianity first taught me this concept. In my younger days, we were told that we were the only ones that were truly good. My church took it so far as to say that only our denomination was the path to salvation.

I found myself in a discussion this past weekend, with a few of the older gentlemen, about marrying outside the church. When we argued that good people can be found outside the church one of them responded rather curiously. He said that given the choice between a clean body of water that is known to have small fish and a dirty body of water that is known to have large fish, most fishermen would have small fish for dinner. This is all paraphrased because his actual words were designed to emphasise his point; he used the words spring and sewer.

Socrates is said to have believed that men only sin unwittingly and that knowledge was the only path to goodness. This isn’t in-line with modern thinking but it does sound like a prequel to the old adage “Every man is right in his own eyes”. With this in mind, we could adjust our understanding of our world.

The binary mind-set is great for religions because it fosters a sense of comradery between the initiated. The problem is that it has transcended religion and now permeates throughout society. We see headlines and read summaries of stories we have no details of and then make judgements on them. The court of public opinion is a dangerous place where narrative overrules fact. We need to start thinking in the form of spectrums and maps.

If morality is more like a map then we have different ideas with different borders and it cannot be said that being a part of a different way of thinking means you oppose anybody. Believing that we can only either agree or disagree is a flawed concept. If I am completely ignorant of the argument then I am neither in agreement nor am I in disagreement. If I don’t know you then I don’t love or hate you, I exist in a space outside of the dichotomy. It’s neither a one nor a zero. Binary is a very polarising kind of paradigm and that can create enemies where enemies need not be.

So what shall we do with the binary sailor? We teach him ternary ways of thinking. This inherently makes us more likely to be understanding of one another and a lot of the world’s problems might cease to exist as a result of it.

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