In Flatland, you are the square

True knowledge is understanding that YOU are the square in Flatland.  And that the Sphere was ALSO, the square.

If you have not read this book, you absolutely should. It's a short fable designed to help us expand our thinking and be humble at the same time.

The book came up in a discussion between Julia Galef and Jonathon Haidt during the Rationally Speaking podcast.

Transcript here:

The conversation was actually about understanding different people's moral framework. Haidt talks about our moral sense and uses the metaphor of taste buds. There are basic flavors we can all taste and all tastes are actually a combination of those core tastes. 

He argues it is the same with morality. There are core evolutionary responses we have and all our moral depths and dimensions is actually the blending of these cores. It is why we can feel happy and sad at the same time.  The movie Inside Out does a great job of explaining this. 

Anyhoo, back to Flatland. For those who have not read it, it's about a 2 dimensional square that encounters a 3 dimensional sphere. The 2 dimensional square cannot comprehend the sphere as he has no ability to experience 3 dimensions. The book is about the square learning about 3 dimensions and coming to terms with learning about what he didn't know before. (and yes, the square is gendered male - hence the pronoun use).

The square begins to understand that a 1 dimensional behind can't experience him as 2 dimensions either because all it will experience a square as it passes through a line is as a point.  The square experiences the sphere as a circle that changes sizes as it passes through the 2 d plane.  And yes, this book is mathematically geeky.

We are the square. We all don't know what we don't know and how we experience others is our impression of them on us, not the reality of them. 

Where the true knowledge comes in is when the square starts asking the sphere about 4 d space and 5 d space. And the sphere refuses to consider it. The sphere experiences and has knowledge of 3 dimensions. It cannot comprehend a fourth. 

But the square, now that is knows about the 3rd dimension and accepts it as reality, can now imagine a 4th and 5th to the nth degree.

Thus, the sphere, becomes like the square when we first encounter him. 

We are all simultaneously aware and unaware. Knowing this allows us to be humble, and open to learn. 

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