Design Is Key To Understanding

I recently watched the NOVA special “Cracking the Maya Code” and was absolutely fascinated by it. I have a special place in my heart for Mesoamerican / pre-Colombian civilizations and Mayanists in general. It’s incredible to me that the language of the Maya has finally been deciphered, and that we can rescue that tiny amount of their culture that remains.

I highly recommend watching the special (though mainly I find it’s the perfect example of “leave your dogma behind” when it comes to research and analysis – people never seem to be able to let go of their preconceptions and notions, they can’t stand not being right!). The most incredible realization hit me when they revealed what was actually going on with the problems in translation; when they determined that multiple symbols could represent the same syllable it hit me: the varied stylized renderings of the alphanumeric symbols were basically just “fonts”! The reason why it was so hard to figure out Mayan language was because they carved a bunch of stuff in their equivalent of MS Comic Sans and Wingdings!! A very important design consideration for Long Now type thought experiments…

Also, the value of working in isolation cannot be understated. None of this would ever have happened if not for the work of Yuri Knorosov, an epigrapher working behind the complete isolation of the Iron Curtain. This kind of result reinforces my belief that the Anathem model of isolating avout is not a bad one at all. Societal collapse happens way too frequently for my taste, it’s a terrible waste of time starting over again and again.

3 Comments

  1. mighty_1

    I watched this last night. There are a lot of cool specials on line for viewing.

  2. mik3cap

    NOVA and PBS are especially awesome. You can catch my friend Nina’s award winning animated feature online at PBS 13: http://www.thirteen.org/sites/reel13/blog/watch-sita-sings-the-blues-online/347/

    I also enjoy NOW and Frontline on PBS online, they’re two of the most hard hitting news shows produced today. It’s especially awesome that all PBS shows have additional interactive content that you can dive deeper into to get more information about various things.