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Beyond Taxonomy

In reading most research papers, I encounter all kinds of taxonomies. At the first sight they all look interesting as readers might have not thought about things in that way. However, stepping back, I usually could not help but ask: what’s the point of making such taxonomies?

I believe sometimes people are too into taxonomy, on at least two aspects. Firstly, people sometimes spend too much time and effort arguing whether x belongs to A or B. Secondly, people sometimes tend to make too many taxonomies.

If we look at taxonomy like looking at the earth from the space, it merely resembles the following scenarios: here is what people do, we draw a line, on the left is A, on the right is B – that’s basically a rough view of taxonomy.

For the first aspect aforementioned, taxonomy is merely an artificial line, which has not changed what/where things are. So too much arguing about which belongs to which makes no sense. For the second aspect, drawing a line is simple; what is more difficult and worth more thinking is how you draw it.

To sum up, I believe taxonomy is way to help us understand something. The process of understanding is more important than either what the taxonomy is or which category something belongs to.

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About Xiang 'Anthony' Chen

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