A Christmas Eve Fugue into the World of Primes

In the spirit of Gödel, Esher, Bach, by Douglas Hofstader, which I am currently getting immense enjoyment out of, I bring to you this Christmas Eve a tale about the largest corporation on the planet. Amazon’s Prime has exploded, it encompasses everything you could ever want, theoretically at least. There is no end to the things you can order to your doorstep with Prime, and lightning fast too. But where did the idea for “Prime” come from, (specifically the name) and what do we think of when we see it?

Well let’s take a foray into number theory to find out. Yes, I am speaking of prime numbers. The dreaded primes we learned in grade school, before upper level math courses I thought all you could do with these numbers was one thing; multiply them by one to get themselves. However, it turns out that primes have an almost unlimited number of interesting properties and the way in which you describe a number as ‘prime’ has an infinite number of connotations that come with it. In the language of mathematical logic, when you say that a number is a prime (say for instance 23), you are saying that any two combinations of numbers, when multiplied with each other do not equal that number, EXCEPT, that number and one. So when you take 23, and call it prime, you are saying that (55) does not equal 23, nor does (612), nor does (96923756040506846) or any combination of two number except for 1 and 23. Now you must keep in mind that multiplication is commutative, but the result is the same. 1 and 23 in either order (yes, there are only two) is the only thing that makes 23 using multiplication. And since there are an infinite number of possibilities of combinations of two numbers we can put together to NOT make 23, then we are in fact saying an infinite number of things about the number 23 when we are calling it prime.

This I think says something about Amazon and their business strategy. It says that with the creation (inception if you will) of Amazon Prime, they plan to sell and ship an infinite number of things. And they have. That is almost the scary thing.

So the purpose of this short sojourn was to show that the word prime does not have to come with the precursor word ‘Amazon’. It has other meanings. So when you gather for the holidays this season, whatever it may be that you celebrate, don’t describe how pleased you were that your gift came just in time through the good graces of Amazon and its ephemeral spin off ‘Prime’ think about the science, and culture and remember why we are all here, on earth, together. Our lives are not here for the corporations, not here for consumption, not here even for working. It is up to us to create life. To create all the light that life brings. If we do not take ownership of our lives, someone else will.

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