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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.


About Xiang 'Anthony' Chen

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