Binaries, Paradigms and Perceptions



Sometime ago, sitting at the reading table in my room, with books all over the place, those being reference in my current writing projects and those waiting on my “to be read” list, I overheard my youngest brother from the kitchen ask one of the aunties in my house a question.

“Aunty what is 1 + 1?” he asked, and she answered him “11” jokingly and my brother laughed and replied “1 + 1 or 2 or 10”.

I laughed so hard in my room, and felt an admiration that my brother could give such a remarkable answer. I remember 3 weeks ago when I was trying to explain the binary paradigm to my brother, on how when counting numbers in binary 1+1 is 10 because only the number 1 and 0 can be used in the binary framework.

It seemed counter-intuitive to him, he just could not get why 1 + 1 is not always 2 as his teachers have taught him. This made me try to explain further, why the decimal and binary frameworks are the same, but our perception of them has to be different with respect to their paradigms.

I only tried to challenge him with this “binary madness” because he seemed to lord every new thing he learns over our heads (I guess all children do this). Can you imagine him trying to embarrass me with the “times tables”? (of which in retrospect, it’s amazing how I got by through numerous advanced mathematical classes without knowing the times table off hand, at least not as seamless as my peers then). What was just an intellectual challenge from me to my brother apparently has stuck with him, because he did doubt me when I said 1 + 1 is 10, so to quell his doubt I said he should do arithmetic in any number and I would do the equivalent in binary.

Today my brother is – I dear say – arguably the only 8 year old that can do binary arithmetic.


This just makes me understand that our thinking is wholly paradigmatic, and it would be a disservice to ourselves if we consider certain phenomena as hokum because they do not conform to the frameworks we are used to. It’s important we find the humility to learn something new – especially when it seems to be an assault on our worldviews. This is the only way we can effectively and continue expanding the horizons of knowledge in our quest to comprehend the vicissitudes of the Universe at large.


Here is a very interesting TED talk on video.  “they way we perceive things affects the way we react to them”


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