… we live in number and also between the implicit and explicit conditions of number.
This is from In Defence of Quantity: Living by Numbers by Steven Connor (2016):
… numerical relations are not just exactly equivalent, but also orderable and therefore manipulable, because ordering otherwise equivalent units puts them into a navigable space.Numbers are atoms with names.
… Digital encoding is as powerful as it is because it is the extension, or, as we might say, the inward intensification, of a principle of organization that is everywhere at work already in all organized language, if not always to the same degree. And this form of organization is numeric, sharing with number the twin principles of divisibility and orderability, which is to say compressibility. Divisibility tends towards and depends on the principle of equivalence, which makes individual units maximally interchangeable with one another. Orderability makes variability possible, because what can be ordered can be reordered, and to reorder is always easier than to order the unordered …
… There might be another way for living creatures to have evolved the vast range of form and function that makes up the design space of evolution, but there seem good reasons why the permutation of just four elements in DNA coding is both necessary and sufficient for this.
… Perhaps we might sum up the process of making the latent manifest with the word intelligence — which signifies both the capacity to understand and the process of communicating that understanding. Intelligence, as a kind of making known, will always involve telling, in two senses: the counting out involved in Fairfax’s talecraft, and the articulation of that counting. … The implicit can never be made explicit except through greater precision, and that precision must almost always involve the move from quality to quantity.
[ … ]
… Undoubtedly, we live in number and also between the implicit and explicit conditions of number. If they are to be good for anything, the humanities must shape up to what I have called quantality — the quality of quantity or the feel for figures — the agitated, affective, philosophical and political imaginary number.
But taking account of the feeling for number must not bypass the most intense feeling of all provoked by number, namely that of horror.
To be continued.