Vanessa wrote this Monday about The Intuitionist’s racial commentary involving elevators, intuitionism, and invisibility. As she makes obvious in her post, it’s pretty clear that the novel is not afraid to address critical racial problems that exist in society (even if the society presented in The Intuitionist is not strictly our society). There’s really very little to disagree with, so I’d like to build on what she wrote now that we’ve read the entire book.

Even though this post is a couple of hours late. Whoops.

I think it’s very interesting what the reader is now allowed to consider after the revelation that Robert Fulton intended for all of intuitionism, at first, to be a big joke (Fulton’s Folly, eh?). I think this XKCD has some relevance:

XKCD: Impostor

Jabs at the field of literature aside, the comic illustrates the same effect that confused Fulton when he saw the reaction to his first book. He had expected that the logical-minded empiricists would immediately notice how silly the entire premise of Intuitionism was (rather than praise it, as they actually did). Instead, his abstract concepts reached those in the field who were more open to the science of feeling (“feeling data”, as it were), and were, oddly enough, powerful enough in the industry to significantly shift the focus of the entire industry to also include this dramatic new style of inspection. Two books and they still haven’t caught on, indeed.

One of the concepts that this revelation introduces is that not everyone in a chosen field will be entirely dedicated to its typical proceedings. Case in point: pseudoscientists (homeopathy, anyone?). Their methods hold no mysterious 10% efficiency boost over accepted treatment, but they are still (usually) scientists who have a different frame on reality.

At the end of the novel, Lila Mae seems to have adopted the role of the narrator in the last frame of the comic: using her position outside of the system (with the knowledge that the system as it is is really bogus) to play the rest of the world (for, it seems, not totally clear objectives). Hopefully it ends well for her.