Humans structure reality as a narrative, and themselves as characters within this narrative. This is the basic discovery that Jung made about the unconscious, and by asserting that the unconscious is structured so that it represents basic desires and instincts through a succession symbols – in contrast to Freud’s chaotic and spasmodic notion – he positions the narrative as the basic means of making sense of oneself, and of ones place in the world.
Narratives are basically lists of events, with some presentational and representational jiggerypokery thrown in for good measure. Events in a narrative are things in the world – things that are bound by space and by time. The time boundedness of events is probably more obvious than its space boundedness, but an event – a thought, a marathon, a mass extinction – happens in specific places during this time. Within a narrative, events are related to one another in a few ways. For instance, events may be related temporally (event A precedes event B), spatially (event A occurs at a place X that is salient somehow to event B), and – the most important for a scientific discourse – causally (event B is impossible without event A occurring first). The activity of establishing causal relations between events consumes a significant amount of humanity’s effort-hours: the scientific endeavour itself is a solemn, earnest effort to discover and categorise the causal relations between events that appear to happen repeatedly.
This blogchain is, in general, interested in a certain kind of causal relation that is particularly difficult to detect: spooky action at a distance (SAAD). Spookily related events are causally related, as per the definition given above, but the events’ other relations are weird. They may be so distant or so close in time and space that their causal relation appears implausible. Or their thematic relation – A and B are part of the same general trend, such as two people losing their jobs following a stock market crash – may violate our normal expectations about what is possible or normal.
Detecting spooky relations – let alone proving them – is hard. Deciding when in history a path-dependency was created is probably more art then science, and could be more fancy than earnest inquiry. But it certainly seems worth pursuing. The world is a monstrous, multidimensional systemic machine whose moving parts are both minute and gargantuan, and whose outputs and inputs are mostly obscure. Normal causal relations are measured physically, through tests of independence. Spooky relations are the parts of the machine that are detected through intuition, through gut-feeling, through the ‘I reckon’ rather than the ‘I hypothesise’.
I reckon we can measure spooky relations, using what I propose to be the unit of measurement of such things: the spookeme.
In linguistics, the phoneme is the basic intelligible unit of sound. A speech sound being intelligible means that it can be distinguished by speakers of a language from other sounds of that language. In English, it’s easy to distinguish between the sounds ‘k’ and ‘g’. To test this, consider two words that differ only by that sound: sack and sag. The change in sound changes the meaning of the word. Where this becomes useful is when one changes a sound but the meaning of a word doesn’t change. Say lit and say fiddle. The ‘l’s have slightly different realisations: the latter is a ‘dark l’, which occurs only in word-final position in English. If you say lit with a dark ‘l’, it’s still lit. The change of sound doesn’t change the word’s meaning.
Spookemes operate on the same basis. If a change in an event A would not alter event B – that is, if changing A yields no change in the historical path – then the relation is not spookemic. A relation is a spookeme if it would alter the path. And just as phonemes are restricted to specific phenomena – meaning-bearing speech sounds – spookemes are relations that hold between events whose other relations make causation seem implausible.
The threshold for proof of causality is statistical significance; the threshold for proof for spookiness is plausibility.