Posts Tagged ‘Ludic fallacy’

The Ludic fallacy is the fallacy of mistaking the model/map for the reality/territory. Check out this one-paragraph short story from Jorge Luis Borges, “On Exactitude in Science”:

. . . In that Empire, the Art of Cartograhy attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.
– Suárez Miranda, Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV, Cap. XLV, Lérida, 1658

[Translated by Andrew Hurley, in a compilation of Borges’ fiction titled Collected Fictions, published by Penguin in 1998.]

Using Borges’ short story as a starting point, Jean Baudrillard discusses the inversion of the relationship between models and reality in “The Precession of Simulacra”, the opening chapter from his book, Simulacra and Simulations. The following are the first two paragraphs:

If once we were able to view the Borges fable in which the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up covering the territory exactly (the decline of the Empire witnesses the fraying of this map, little by little, and its fall into ruins, though some shreds are still discernible in the deserts — the metaphysical beauty of this ruined abstraction testifying to a pride equal to the Empire and rotting like a carcass, returning to the substance of the soil, a bit as the double ends by being confused with the real through aging) — as the most beautiful allegory of simulation, this fable has now come full circle for us, and possesses nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra.

Today abstraction is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being, or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it. It is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory — precession of simulacra — that engenders the territory, and if one must return to the fable, today it is the territory whose shreds slowly rot across the extent of the map. It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges persist here and there in the deserts that are no longer those of the Empre, but ours. The desert of the real itself.

[Translated by Sheila Faria Glaser in Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulations, published by the University of Michgan Press, 1994.]

Human beings in today’s society succumb to countless forms of hyperreality, as this is a reflection of an innate human desire to pervert the Ludic “fallacy” of the mind into the Ludic “fellatio” of the mind.


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In his book The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb introduces a term that embodies the fallacy of mistaking mathematical models for that of reality: the Ludic fallacy. Certain practitioners in the mathematical sciences are often guilty of succumbing to this fallacy, with the highest concentration of offenders coming from the fields of finance, economics and statistics. (Even being awarded a Nobel Prize does not grant one immunity from the Ludic fallacy, e.g. the spectacularly epic failure of Myron Scholes and Robert Merton with LTCM.)

An even more spectacular failure (partially stemming from Wall Street financial “engineers” operating under the Ludic fallacy) is the 2008 financial crash. This is just one of countless examples of the arrogance of human beings to presume to “understand” and “tame” complexity. The ancient Greeks have a term for this kind of arrogance: hubris.

Further reading:

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