Sherlock and the Case for Embodiment

2 thoughts on “Sherlock and the Case for Embodiment”

  1. Among all the uses of technology in Sherlock, I think it’s fascinating how much season 3’s finale focuses on memory. When Magnussen talks about his “memory palace,” it bears structural similarities to Vannevar Bush’s memex: a physical area that Magnussen can enter and easily extract information from. Magnussen’s memory palace serves as an ideal system, one bereft of the problems of retrieval and filtering that often plague search engines. By contrast, however, Sherlock’s memory palace – though still impressive – is less perfect. Retrieval, for Sherlock, is messier; it takes time, and far from being a walking encyclopedia, Sherlock has decided gaps in his memory (the heliocentric model of the solar system, for example). As a result, he’s often seen supplementing his mental skills with technological aids: in the first episode, for example, he’s seen looking up weather reports in order to figure out more data about a dead woman. While Magnussen could theoretically possess similar knowledge, Sherlock’s tech-based method seems more viable to me: with weather ever-changing, it’s more useful to monitor it with technology than to keep a methodical record of knowledge that, in the end, may be quite useless. In the end, Magnussen’s end comes mainly because of his arrogance – he doesn’t even factor in the option that Sherlock might shoot him – but throughout the show, Sherlock is often shown to be similarly arrogant or overbearing. And yet, despite that, Sherlock is a fluid thinker, one who (unlike Magnussen, at least with regards to his death) sees the possibilities present in any situation. I’m reminded here now of Borges’s story, “Funes the Memorious,” in which perfect memory ultimately cripples more creative thinking, and I wonder if a similar theme could be drawn from a comparison of Magnussen/Sherlock’s use of memory.

    1. Yeah! I like this idea of thinking of Sherlock as more fluid, tactical, and thus rhizomatic–as defined against the kind of protocological relations of force that drive Magnussen. Also, I love Borges.

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