The Intuitionist is just engrossing enough to suspend my disbelief about the fact that the book features a distinctly non-fantastical world in which there are not only universities dedicated to the study of elevator inspecting, but also multiple schools of thought regarding the field. I’m tempted to say that the very existence of two characters’ serious discussion on “construct[ing] an elevator from the elevator’s point of view” (p. 62) indicates that Whitehead is somehow poking fun at how ridiculous such philosophies are. I suppose that wouldn’t be in the spirit of our current “feeling data” focus.

Good thing I’m not much of a team player.

XKCD: Elevator Inspection

XKCD: relevant as usual. It’s pretty clear to you and me both, I’m sure, that  hardly anyone (in real life, anyway) cares about elevator inspection as much as the average Intuitionist character. It would take a significantly altered historical timeline for a world like ours to develop such a reliance on elevator safety that the elevator inspectors’ guild warrants a dispatcher’s service. The fact, though, that average citizens regard elevator safety only as “a dim affirmation of modernity…taken for granted and subconsciously cherished” (p. 14-15), indicates that maybe the only reason people care is because there’s not much more for anyone to worry about (I guess elevators were the key to world peace, or something).

With all the subtle nods to racial issues that seem to get sidelined by the incredible importance of elevators, the book kind of illustrates how silly it is that real issues that actually hurt people (e.g. p. 43: no room for colored students at inspector school) tend to be ignored in favor of small issues that are easy to pretend are more important than they really are. Society in The Intuitionist is so enlightened that some people are willing to raise books unironically titled Theoretical Elevators to a high pedestal of respect. They even have enough time on their hands to form political teams and squabble over which method of elevator inspection is the best (those who reject the aforementioned book’s teachings, and those that embrace it). Meanwhile, problems of race and sex — “don’t judge an elevator door by its colors” is too much to ask of these folks, I suppose — are generally swept under the rug, making much less progress than one would think given the fact that the people of this city have apparently solved enough life-threatening problems that all they have to work on now is elevator safety.

I wonder how the elevators would feel about all this?