I’m at the Santa Monica Public Library, and the “City WiFi” wireless ‘net connection here is actually working decently this time. I’m sitting outside next to a cafe in a large patio surrounded by the library itself, typing and eating a bad turkey sandwich. I’m not eating the sandwich anymore, because it just wasn’t edible, so I got a fork and I’m just eating the turkey, because it’s past time for lunch and I need to eat something, since this is my breakfast, too. The turkey’s not bad eaten this way, just not great. Too dry. Even though I like things dry. It’s cold, in the shade, even though I’m wearing a jacket. It’s mostly peaceful here. But I’ll go inside when I’m done. Inside, now. The barrier between in and out isn’t solid, so energy must be lost keeping it warm in here. Unless the area retains heat by virtue of its architecture. I wonder if they close the passageway to the outdoor patio when it gets colder than this. Probably not; the barrier is one of those metal roll-down doors that are used to seal up shops in malls when they close. Or the back entrances to street shops, where they connect with an alley. Roll up the door so that the delivery truck can back in and be unloaded. Not the chain-link kind, which perhaps are more prevalent in malls, so the public can see in and see what’s in the store, even when it’s closed. This is a nice library. One of the nicest I’ve been in. Very modern. There are power outlets next to me on the edge of this desk, for when my laptop’s battery runs low. I really could spend all day here. But considering that I’m working on my computer, how much does it matter what specific location I’m in? From a logical standpoint, that seems almost a subtlety. I wonder how much it really matters, though. I couldn’t have truthfully written the above (about that sad excuse for a turkey sandwich) without having been here (and I probably wouldn’t have thought of it or have bothered to write about it otherwise), but it’s not exactly a world-changing bit of writing. Sure, one less person will order a turkey sandwich here. Next time I’m here, the fact that the turkey sandwiches served in this library’s cafe are bad will bubble up more prominently from the depths of my memory, and I’ll probably order something else. Now, in written language, the meaning of successive sentences build on each other, putting together a complete thought, but that thought is sometimes ambiguous. Is the first sentence meant to stand alone, or is it meant to contribute to the second sentence? The prior sentence obviously doesn’t work if it stands alone. Neither do sentences which refer to other sentences. That thought came about because I said that “one less person will order a turkey sandwich here”, followed by “next time I’m here…”. I could have been intending to refine the meaning of “one less person” with the subsequent sentence, implying that that “one less person” is me. Or you could (and are meant to) consider both sentences as separate ideas, where the “one less person” is a reference to some unlikely Web surfer who will, after stumbling upon this meaningless meandering morass of mental micturition and subsequently finding himself at this particular branch of the Santa Monica Public Library system and hungering for a bite to eat, who would //ordinarily// (or due to the randomness prevailing that day) have ordered a turkey sandwich for lunch (or breakfast) and might very well have ordered that turkey sandwich //here//, given that that’s where he was, specifically //not// order that turkey sandwich because of my influence. It is my hope that, should said unlikely chain of events occur, that that person would comment here and share with us all his experience and opinion on whatever other dish he happened to order, so that I can decide to either avoid or seek it out should I be in the same situation I was in some fraction of an hour ago. But enough about turkey sandwiches; back to the interrelatedness of sentences. Refer to the difficulty of building some sort of “artificial intelligence” which can understand written human language by having been programmed with grammatical rules and ways to break down and analyze sentences, and can therefore draw reasoned conclusions or make observations based thereupon. Because the question is, what happens when said a.i. encounters a sentence or phrase such as, “this sentence does not refer to itself”? Or the ambiguity of meanings in reference to my two-part turkey sandwich comment, above? Or just ambiguity in general? Therefore we’d have to create flexible intelligence, not bound by rigid rules, just fuzzy guidelines. After all, we have no trouble understanding ungrammatical writing, even in the most horribly mangled of forms. And when I write:
: This sentence refers to all sentences which do not refer to themselves.
…your brain doesn’t start smoking and explode. At least I should hope not. Maybe it just starts smoking.