What are lists? Why do we use lists? Why is it important to check things off a list? If we finished the task is that not enough?
Lists are a notation tool that we use on a daily basis. The goal in this series of essays is to introduce the idea of a list as a tool that extends our brains
capacity to store, withdraw, and notate information. I will present scientific papers that study our brains on lists, examples of historically significant lists, anectodal
accounts of my list taking, and speculations on the future of lists and list makers. Stay tuned for more lists.
List word count: 12
In 1726, Benjamin Franklin created a system to develop his character. This essay is not a summary of those specific; where and how he defined them, rather the crux here is that he invented a method of notation to track his character development. This act of creating a list that acts as a prosthetic to his brain, to me coincides with the making of a prosthetic; and if you have followed along with the other essays some buttons should be lighting up. Image on the left is an example of such a chart used by Franklin to track his progress. The column has the days of the week and the rows the thirteen virtues. The Thirteen Virtues are: Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, Humility. Image on the right, while not directly having to do with the thirteen virtues is another list by Franklin that records his daily schedule. It is no surprise that a person that develops a system to track their progress of character would also employ a similar tactic to keep tabs on their day to day activities.
Previously, I showed the example of an individual capacity and how that can affect the creation of a list. In this essay, we will see how the making of lists have spawned whole movements and become staples of society. The most famous of all three from a western world perspective are the ten commandments. The story goes that after Moses had freed the Israelites from slavery at the hands of the egyptian Pharao. God spoke to Moses and delivered the following message: Exodus Ch.20 Verse 1-3, "And God spake all these words, saying, I am the lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shall have no other gods before me". This is the introduction to the ten commandments. The Code of Hammurabi is the oldest written set of laws to have survived to this day, others might have existed but we do not know of them. This is where we get the famous "an eye for an eye". As a list, the code is the most extensive out of the three. The 95 Theses posted by Martin Luther, is the last one to discuss. This one is particularly interesting because it is the most recent and we can pinpoint the timeline and rise of a movement (The Reformation) from its inception. This series is about lists, and so it would not be fair to not go into the details of what makes these lists are on my list of important lists, to start with the ten commandments are not really only ten commandments, there are close to 100 , that God presented to Moses but we've narrowed it down to those ten. Ten is an interesting number, because we have 10 digits on our hands which we can use to count with. The western world is a base ten collective.