My problem with pronouns WIRED

A conservative friend suggests banning all adjectives – removing identifiers completely. “Conservative” for example. Adjectives mean our opinion of a person and sometimes that’s all. Reading them exaggerates differences, shrinks complexity, and labels instead.

Maybe that’s why during the Ketanji Brown Jackson hearings, I was angry that the media identified her almost exclusively as the First Black Woman – true, but also, in a sense, general. First Black Woman: These are all important stages, identities that really matter, of course. It just sometimes seemed to drown out so many other things about her. Some people have never passed the First Black Woman (no doubt the same people who turned the page when they saw HER).

As an “adult”, my identity is established at a glance. The employees in the cooperative can’t tell me apart from the other white-haired women waiting to receive their orders. Twenty-two, seventy-two are alike. (Twenty or so may look like us, alas.)

Teaching mandatory to fight identity. Students ask: How can we address you? A friend gave her students two options: your own name or Your Majesty. I liked that. But these days, I find that most of my students prefer to use “professor” because that’s my identity for them. I don’t really identify as a “professor”, but that’s OK.

This is the question of identity. It changes in space and time. “Her” does not mean what she did 30 years ago. At the same time, it’s hard for me to identify with the reckless forty-two who skated in Manhattan. (The Trump Tower Lobby was the best place in town.) A friend sent me a picture from a few years ago while I was lecturing at an event. “I was someone then,” I replied. “You were someone else then,” he replied.

Sometimes, mine the main identity is “mom”. My cat probably mistakenly identified me as a “can opener.”

However, my identity does not mean that I am identical to other “can openers”, such as the cat keeper – or that I identify with a “can opener”. Even identical twins may not be identified as identical. One can identify as an “Olympic athlete”; the other, a “criminal.”

In mathematics, identity is something very specific. Euler’s identity is undoubtedly the most famous: I once saw it engraved on the registration number of a pickup truck in Anchorage. Appeared on The Simpsons more than once. A fellow scientist suggested it to me as a suitable tattoo.

Part of the appeal is that Euler’s identity has a stellar cast – all great numbers!

0: the destroyer; makes everything nothing or infinity.

1: unity, identity in itself!

pi: ratio of circumference to diameter, irrational and infinite. (The first three digits are Einstein’s birthday.)

e: transcendental, shown everywhere, limit, unattainable, own derivative.

on: imaginary, square root of minus one: √ (-1).

Collect them and get: e I drank + 1 = 0. In English, multiply on multiply pi then e to this force. By magic it is equal to zero. This is amazing!

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