DAY 239: The box of all boxes

January 31st, 2018 § 0 comments

I’ve been thinking, as I expect you often do late at night when there are no phone calls to Lebanon to keep you awake, about Russell’s paradox – you know, the one about sets which are not members of themselves. With which, year after year, I’ve had the third year mathematicians in stitches. It’s the usual problem of going round in circles which afflicts us all, and I met it in a particularly acute form when I was looking for the files which another volunteer (call her Zenobia) had placed in a secure place called ‘Dropbox’ and posted me the link to. A brilliant idea, and I had great fun with the files until I realised that I’d only been given access to a part of a much larger whole, and there were fascinating documents that I couldn’t reach. Why? I’ve hinted at it in another place: but the essential idea is that there is (in our huge system which interests me not at all) a folder called ‘Dropbox’ which contains everything interesting. The reader will surely understand what I mean.  crivelli
[A picture by Carlo Crivelli which has nothing particularly to do with what I've
been saying but fills up a bit of the page.]

The point, if I can ever get to it, is that the folder called ‘Dropbox’ which I was sent (are you still with me, reader? Good) is part of a much larger folder called confusingly ‘Dropbox’. The latter had loads of amazingly cool stuff (don’t expect me to tell you what that was) and I hadn’t been given the link to that! I am, of course, too old and daft to grasp these smart lawyers’ tricks, so it’s taken me some time to work out a strategy for evading what’s being done here; I think that, following Russell, I’d have to make a copy of the big dropbox inside the small dropbox and then construct a new box of all boxes which… Could I avoid an infinite regress which would make the laptop explode? I’d certainly then be

Chinese box

breaking some law, and not just a logical one.

You may remember (probably not) Malvina Reynolds’ ‘Little Boxes‘, a hugely popular song when I was quite a lot younger, involving boxes and doctors and universities and, of course, lawyers. It has the same elements of regress, and the same inevitability. I’d dearly love to be given the key (the dropkey?) to this conundrum.

[Since I am not an intellectual property lawyer, more’s the pity, I’m unable to pronounce on the popular and dangerous TickBox add-ons for streaming loads of stuff through your TV for free. Very profitable lawsuits, in which I can only play a spectator role are on the way.

Leave a Reply