You, the time-binding animal

Alfred Korzybski was a Polish guy that came up with this thing called General Semantics. Not to be confused with semantics as in the meaning of words, Korzybski was more on about the meaning of meaning, processes in the brain, humans and identification, etc. One of the things involved in his concept is language. And one of the things that come up with Korzybski is the idea of there being three classes of life: the energy-binding (plants), the space-binding (animals), and the time-binding (humans).

The concept of time-binding referred to how human beings have the unique exclusive ability to pass information from one generation to the next. We are the sole creatures capable of passing information through time, through generations – where one generation can pick up where another left off, evolving with that information passed down and communicated through time.

In concreting his own thoughts on Korzybski’s concepts, William Burroughs in The Electronic Revolution mentions time-binding, and makes an interesting point: “The crucial distinction between men and other animals. WRITING. He can make information available to other men over a length of time through writing”.

Although other living creatures can communicate information either verbally or nonverbally to others of their species, they can’t carry on that information to future generations. An example that was made once was like a mouse that might know that mouse traps are dangerous, but it couldn’t possibly communicate to further generations of this danger, like writing a book about mice and the dangers of mouse traps to avoid them in the future.

So, consider: Make information available to other men over a length of time through writing.

And again I’ll bring up that idea of the written word as being alive, flowing, moving, changing, communicating actively; but now also, as travelling through time.

So, time-binding as textual time travel. So, time travel through the written word.  So then, you, the translator – you, the time-binding animal – when you head back to work, scrolling through sources and targets through your favorite CAT tools, think of this:

Written word as the vessel, and translations as the international way stations to a form of time travel, communicating and transmitting information to future generations.