Leibniz vs. 2015


On occasion (read: every day), I find myself wondering what Leibniz would think of our modern world nowadays. Like, if we were somehow to manage to bring him back to life at age 40 or so and got someone (read: me) to show him around and calm him down when all the new stuff freaked him out, I wonder what he would really think of things.

  • What would he think of modern calculators? His Stepped Reckoner weighed like 80 pounds and could only add, subtract, multiply, and divide. I can buy a palm-sized calculator from the dollar store that can compute any given square root in about the time it takes to blink. And what would he do with a graphing calculator?
  • On the larger scale, what would he think of computers? He may have not come up with the original idea for binary, but he certainly refined it enough so that it could be easy to understand and use. Would he be surprised at how far we’ve come technology-wise just based on binary, or would that be something he may have anticipated?
  • And what would he think about technology in general? Like, I’m sure if we just recreated 40-year-old Leibniz and dropped him into the modern world, he’d likely be VERY freaked out, but barring that—say we were able to calm him down and explain things to him—what would he think of our technology now? I’d bet he’d want to deconstruct EVERYTHING to see how it all works, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he just came up with a few improvements off the top of his head. ‘Cause, you know, Leibniz.
  • How would he feel about the fact that now, in 2015, we still use several of his original symbols in calculus? If I were to show him a college calculus textbook, flip to the first section on integration, and point to his elongated “s” symbol, what would his reaction be? Would he think the textbook was from some previous century? Would he realize that the time he spent thoughtfully considering appropriate and intuitive symbols to describe math was not wasted? I wonder if he’d approve or disapprove of the modern calculus textbook in general.
  • WHAT WOULD HE THINK ABOUT GLASSES? The poor guy was ridiculously near-sighted by the time he was about 20. Reading and writing must have been quite difficult for him. A good pair of specs would allow him to see clearly, both near and far. I wonder what his reaction to that would be.
  • What would he think about his Wikipedia page, or any other brief history of his life/accomplishments? Would he feel proud seeing the long list of accomplishments that he’d achieved during his life? Would he wish he’d had more time to do more things? (Probably.) I wonder if he’d be happy with how people see him nowadays and/or how they interpret his philosophical contributions and his general view of the world.

Interesting things to think about. I also like the idea of him impulsively shunning the fashion of his day in favor of some outfit he saw at H&M or something. He’d go running through the store towards it, shedding clothes and knocking over all the displays along the way.

Everyone else: Leibniz, no!
Me: Leibniz, yes.

 

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One response

  1. It would definitely be interesting to bring significant historical figures to the present day just to see their reactions.

    Like

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