Mann’s Razor

I’ve been working for days[0] on the formulation for this, and I think I’ve finally come up with the concept that will put me in the Conversational Mathematics textbooks. (Especially since I just made up “Conversational Mathematics”, as well. If there are going to be any texts, I’ll have to write them.)

Mann’s Razor: For each phenomenon N, let the set {E} represent all available explanations (i.e. possible causations) for N. Let {P} be a set of probabilities, such that each element Px correlates with Ex to indicate the likelihood that Ex actually bears any relevance to N. Let {C} be a set of values, such that Cx is a composite value of the set of possible conversations branching from the point at which Ex is employed, as a function of potential for humorous and interesting (i.e. imaginative) discussion, with each sub-conversation’s functional value weighted for the probability of the conversation.[2] As Px decreases, Cx increases.

Of course, we can also express this concept in plain English, for the benefit of those who can’t read my cockamamie pseudo-technical explanation. After all, I can’t expect all of you to be well-studied in a field of Mathematics that I just made up. Or rather, I could expect that, but you’re unlikely to buy the explanation for my expectations.[1]

Mann’s Razor: Espousing the most improbable of reasons a phenomenon is likely to make your conversation about that phenomenon more interesting.

Note that the inverse is not necessarily true. In fact, one could argue that a favoring of the most outlandish outcomes available for any current causation is pretty much just paranoia. Also:

Corollary 1: The desired value for Cx/Px (that is, the ratio of “conversational interest” to factual probability of the proposed explanation) will vary with topic, situation, and conversational participants. For instance, in a conversation with those unfamiliar with the speaker, a C/P ratio that approaches infinity will render the conversation invalid, and probably arouse suspicion of insanity. However, in other circumstances, nearly-infinite C/P ratios will be desired.

Now, I tell you all this, just so I can explain the voice mail I left on Canthros’ cell phone, in which I complain about the humidity we’re having up here:

“Dude… The entire Chicago area has been swallowed by a 600-mile-long hippopotamus.”

Thus begun, the resultant conversation went on to reveal the following:

  • The (hypothetical) existence of the “megapotamus”
  • The fact that the specific beast in question is a “dire megapotamus”
  • The fact that “I didn’t ask about its mood“[3]
  • I think we’re in its duodenum now
  • I am advised to stop rolling zeroes on the Wandering Monster Chart
  • Dude, do you know ANYONE else who can even roll a zero?
  • The (hypothetical) existence of the “dire micropotamus”, which can fit into a bathtub, but probably shouldn’t
  • I totally forgot what I was calling about in the first place

Pretty interesting, I thought. And certainly funny, in that imaginative sense. Both are traits that Conversational Mathematics has been used since its inception to calculate and maximize!

[0] If we go by the book, hours would seems like days.
[1] Although, I’d probably choose something that involves improbably easy time travel, in accordance with the concept being discussed.
[2] Note that the conversational process is iterative, with Ex becoming N at each step. Thus, Mann’s Razor can be used as a driving function for a conversation as it traverses its selected branches.
[3] This was, indeed, an attempted 8-bit Theater reference, and one I had never expected to be able to make naturally, but had sincerely hoped to. Score!
[N] Shoot. My footnotes are out of order. How Embarrasing.

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