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Is binary thinking inevitable? Discuss

Binary thinking is the notion that thought is based upon a relation of oppositions. That is to say, that thinking is seen in relation to two separate absolutes. For example, the notion of black is seen in opposition to white; male is seen in opposition to female and right is seen in opposition to wrong in terms of meaning; in essence, they are inseparable (Saussure, 1910-11). This means that they are seen in a series of absolutes that configure as the governing factors in our thinking signified in our language, thoughts and ideas. This has a basis in cognitive psychology in the notion of categories, which many have deemed the necessary code of information used to deliberate upon what is and isn't accepted as knowledge. This is given greater rational in the notion of structuralism, which states that we think in relation to a symbolic order that determines the way in which we conceptualise the world. One other indication of the idea that binary thinking is inevitable is in the concept of artificial intelligence and the code that is used to define the way a computer thinks and operates. Essentially, artificial intelligence is binary and so a comparison between artificial intelligence and human intelligence may reveal to us the degree to which we may accept the notion that binary thinking is inevitable or not. It is with both structuralism and artificial intelligence that we will assess the notion of binary thinking as an inevitable form.

Concerned with the concept of artificial versus human intelligence, mathematical theorist Turing suggested that it was through a process of mimicry that computer intelligence would one day match and eventually take over from human or culturally based forms of intelligence (Turing, 1950). In essence, he surmised that binary thinking was a form of intelligence learned according to a set of coded mathematic equations. These were then used to mimic human behaviour through a stimuli response mechanism. If we are to follow Turing's definition of intelligence applied to human thinking then it would stand that a human observer would not be able to tell the difference between the emotional consciousness of a human and the formulated response of a robot, due to the thoughts of both systems being displayed externally (Turing, 1950). Essentially, we find a very superficial version of human interactivity and exchange of thoughts. We could possibly conclude from Turing's concept that the role of subjective experience and subjectivity is completely lost as it is given over to an acceptance rejection stimulus based upon the image of something external. However, it could also be said that due to the recognition of emotional response and the objective portrayal of mimicry that this intelligence turns from that of a mimicking robot to that of an inquisitive and introspective being capable of contemplating the often paradoxical and highly subjective nature of identity.

 This reflects the premise upon which Baudrillard indicated that the role of binary oppositions would become compromised. Essentially, as the symbolic order that is meant to signify the language meaning has gone from an existential sphere to an objective media sphere it has failed in aligning our realities to the language. Essentially, through Bhabha's locality into which we exist, and through the dominant languages inability to accord a definitive value to its associated object the notion of binary oppositions become lost to the identity of the particular person thinking and observing the language. For example, such values as black and white create particular meaning in relation to one's own experiences. Black may be given by the language as a solid value. However, the meaning of black can become lost to what is meant to signify. For instance, if someone has experienced a black car of value in their life then they may identify with blackness in an existential way so that it becomes their identity and source of meaning in the world. Therefore, white is no longer an observable opposite within the symbolic order. However, one may then suggest that the notion of white then becomes the identity's fundamental other through structural default. However, this is rendered obsolete with the notion that one's identity does not pertain to an opposite. This can be seen in Bhabha's notion of 'hybridity' (Bhabha, 1994). In this notion Bhabha suggests that we hold two sets of cultural reality into which our identities are plunged. For example, the notion of someone living in China, but coming from America will reduce such a notion of thinking so as to see China as opposite to America. In essence, they will have a hybrid identity, meaning that two truths are maintained, as Hofstede indicates, and that the notions of perspectives become essential to their reality and way of thinking.    

Essentially, it would appear that binary thinking is not inevitable. Rather, when we look at the many uses of languages and ideas prevalent within culture it would appear more likely that binary thinking is becoming removed. It would also seem that values and meaning are now given and devised by the locality of our emergence into the world and that language systems can no longer be supported by a rigid structure. Furthermore, it would seem that it is through our identity to the language and reality of the world that we define meaning in a multi-faceted way. This leaves little scope for binary thinking in any sense other than through a rigid language and fixed reality; neither of which seem to be apparent or indicative of the future.

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