Tuesday, November 19, 2013

19 November '63—Wisdom Beyond Number

A nation conceived in liberty and dedicated
to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Abraham Lincoln
The Gettysburg Address
19 November 1863


Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg
Library of Congress
There is a line of numerical logic that argues there is no necessary value to a 10th or 100th or 150th anniversary. Each year is as good as the next.

But, we do invest numbers with extra-numerical value as we invest other seemingly valueless objects. To an important extent, financial economies rely on precisely this exchange. The absurdity of the proposition is recently visible in stories of Facebook’s desire to acquire Snapchat—for $3 billion. In what some technology types have seen as a response to the abiding need to be relevant, an Internet behemoth, sometimes described as the third (no doubt soon the second) largest country in the world, sought to buy a service whose content disappears by design almost as soon as it is created—for $3 billion, three times what Facebook paid for Instagram, an Internet photography service one might now view as a relative bastion of photographic permanence.