In Search Of Nothing
An SEO experiment by Bob Sakayama & Rev Sale
Google's Treatment Of Nothing
17 December 2020 Google Results For Nothing
There are approximately 7,000,000,000 documents that address this term.
This is page one of that search. It appears that Google is promoting the band Nothing.
Google Results For "Nothing" Are Uninformative
Below are details on the results that appeared 17 December 2020 and provided very little real information about nothing if you were at all interested in learning more. [Keep in mind that this is only a snapshot in time and that the results that you see are likely to be different.]
#1 in Google is a website for the band Nothing.
#2 is the band's Facebook page.
It's not until #3, a Wikipedia page, that you see serious information about the meaning and the word. But the real value of this post is the large amount of space dedicated to philosophy, including the thoughts of some selected philosophers when they pondered nothing. Given what a giant topic nothingness is in philosophy, it is just weird that this is the only mention of it in the top 5 pages of Google's search results.
#4 slides back to the above band's Youtube video with a bogus title "Bernie Sanders (Official Music Video)."
#5 is Nothing Bundt Cakes
#6 is the band's twitter account.
#9 is the band's Spotify page.
#10 is the band's Instagram page - but now we're on page 2 of Google's search results.
Most Google searches have 10 results per page. But on page 1 for "nothing" there are only 9 - something that clearly signals disrespect especially when you consider that 6 of these 9 results (67%) are for a band that is cleverly gaming Google. Of the top 20 results, 12 (60%) are pages for a band. There were only 6 informative results, 5 of which repeated definitions, and finally there was 1 lifestyle post by Jenny Odell on why we need to learn to do nothing. This is an incredibly thin result from Google on an extremely significant idea. It's not until very deep - #31 in Google - that you find a serious post on nothing, and that is from Scientific American titled "Endless Creation Out Of Nothing." Nothing is getting seriously short shrifted by Google probably because there is no money to be made from this search.
Rev Sale has taken the initiative and is currently putting together a lobbying effort to shine a spotlight onto this outrage. Stand For Nothing along with Nothing Matters are the national organizations taking up the cause along with local chapters of Nothing Now! in every city. They hope to shame Google into stopping its long standing discrimination against Nothing. This post is part of that effort.
But the money question is: Why are the Google results for Nothing so lacking in real information? It's outrageous if you believe as many do that Nothing really matters in our lives. Is there such a dirth of informative websites or online resources in Google's index that it can't provide informative search results on this topic? Whatever the reason, Google gets a zero for its handling of Nothing.
Google Trends : Comparing Nothing, Everything, Something and Anything
The above Google Trends screenshot charts the relative interest over the past 16 years for Nothing, Everything, Something, and Anything. Note that around late 2009, interest in Something started to take off and continues to hold a substantial lead. People are least interested in Anything, which kind of makes sense, but why the sustained interest in Something? One big surprise is how close Nothing and Everything are. But you also have to wonder who exactly is searching for Nothing (we now know some are probably fans of the band). Consider these simple questions: Have you or anyone you know ever searched for Everything? Or Something? Anything? If your have, you're definitely not alone and it's nothing to be embarrassed about.
Geo Breakdown Of Nothing Searches From Google Trends
The above data reveals an astounding fact about those of us who live in the United States. The interest in Nothing varies with the state. For example, the interest in Nothing is highest in Texas and Nevada (29%). Lowest in Rhode Island (19%). Why are Texans more interested in Nothing than Rhode Islanders? Are these differences evidence of a political stance, the number of philosophers in each state, or something else? If we ever learn what's really going on here, nothing is keeping us from using that information to improve our lives.
The Renown Philosophers Who Expounded On Nothing | from Wikipedia
Parmenides of Elea (Greek: late sixth or early fifth century BC) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher from Elea in Magna Graecia (meaning "Great Greece," the term which Romans gave to Greek-populated coastal areas in Southern Italy). He is thought to have been in his prime (or "floruit") around 475 BC.
Parmenides has long been considered the founder of metaphysics or ontology and has influenced the whole history of Western philosophy. In his writings on the concept of being, nothing plays a significant role. Parmenides' philosophy has been explained with the slogan "whatever is is, and what is not cannot be". He is also credited with coining the phrase "out of nothing nothing comes."
Following the reasoning of the philosophers is a useful exercise in application of their logic. Parmenides is among the philosophers most credited with originating the field of metaphysics (ontology) and has strongly influenced the discipline's conversation about nothingness and argues that the notion of nothing is closely related to the notion of existence. One way to understand this reasoning is to define nothingness as the absence of anything. Then the opposite of the notion of nothingness is the notion of existence.
Aristotle, Newton, Descartes
Aristotle (384–322 BC) provided the classic escape from the logical problem posed by Parmenides by distinguishing things that are matter and things that are space. In this scenario, space is not "nothing" but, rather, a receptacle in which objects of matter can be placed. The true void (as "nothing") is different from "space" and is removed from consideration. This characterization of space reached its pinnacle with Isaac Newton who asserted the existence of absolute space. René Descartes, on the other hand, returned to a Parmenides-like argument of denying the existence of space. For Descartes, there was matter, and there was extension of matter leaving no room for the existence of "nothing."
The accredited scholars argue long and hard over nothing. Some equate "nothing" with the true void, different from "space" which is the receptacle for objects. Newton was an advocate for the existence of "space." Descartes denied the existence of "space" along with "nothing." Some of the arguments may appear to be semantic in nature, and there is much disagreement among the scholars on some important notions especially regarding the concepts of nothing and existence often having to do with the definition of the terms. The evolution of philosophic thought tends to reinforce previously accepted thinking, so in this way, Parmenides becomes a starting point in the discussion that includes Nothing along with a lot of other concepts which underwent the gradual evolution of establishment philosophical thinking - the philosophical progression that takes root over the years and generations. This is a scholarly pursuit that leaves a printed legacy which is fascinating to read. In this realm, nothing turns out to be a compelling idea and a notion that will be forever argued as a philosophical cornerstone.
John the Scot, or Johannes Scotus Eriugena (c. 815–877) held many surprisingly heretical beliefs for the time he lived in for which no action appears ever to have been taken against him. His ideas mostly stem from, or are based on his work of translating pseudo-Dionysius. His beliefs are essentially pantheist and he classifies evil, amongst many other things, into not-being. This is done on the grounds that evil is the opposite of good, a quality of God, but God can have no opposite, since God is everything in the pantheist view of the world. Similarly, the idea that God created the world out of "nothing" is to be interpreted as meaning that the "nothing" here is synonymous with God.
John the Scot would not have survived in the Christian civilizations of early America. His argument that God is the equivalent of Nothing might have been seen to be blasphemy, not to mention the fact that he was a pantheist - believing that the universe was conceived of as a whole is God and, conversely, that there is no God but the combined substance, forces, and laws that are manifested in the existing universe. No room for Jesus in this belief. An interesting argument this pantheist made is an introduction to the concept of evil as an understanding of "not-being." And his take on "nothing" is conjoined with his religious belief: Since God created the world out of "nothing" then "nothing" is synonymous with God. Since Descartes denies the existence of nothing, he can make the atheist argument in the next step.
The most prominent figure among the existentialists is Jean-Paul Sartre, whose ideas in his book Being and Nothingness (L'être et le néant) are heavily influenced by Being and Time (Sein und Zeit) of Martin Heidegger, although Heidegger later stated that he was misunderstood by Sartre. Sartre defines two kinds of "being" (être). One kind is être-en-soi, the brute existence of things such as a tree. The other kind is être-pour-soi which is consciousness. Sartre claims that this second kind of being is "nothing" since consciousness cannot be an object of consciousness and can possess no essence. Sartre, and even more so, Jaques Lacan, use this conception of nothing as the foundation of their atheist philosophy. Equating nothingness with being leads to creation from nothing and hence God is no longer needed for there to be existence.
Jean-Paul Sartre, the most prominent existentialist, also would have fared poorly in God fearing colonial America. Even now atheist beliefs can make one a social pariah in parts of the world. What's interesting is how his thoughts on Nothing lead him to a foundation of his atheist philosophy. He defines two notions of existence. One is the existence of objects. The other is the existence of consciousness. Since consciousness cannot be an object and can possess no essence, he defines consciousness as "nothing." Consciousness exists which connects "nothing" to existence. This leads to creation from nothing and therefore God is not needed for there to be existence. Sartre and Lacan use this logic as an argument for their atheist philosophy.
Nothing vs Zero
If you bring mathematics into the search for nothing, the perspective shifts significantly from the philosophical to a discussion about zero. While it's very interesting to read that the classical Greeks had no symbol for zero we feel that it can be easily argued that zero is not nothing. But there is a mathematical concept that does relate more closely with nothing with some adjustment. The empty set is that concept. For example the set of all muskrats that order wine for dinner is the empty set. Unfortunately mathematicians equate this with zero, zero muskrats, although some philosophers may consider the empty set to be actually more related to nothingness as detailed below. But you can see how confusion arises when the nomenclature suggests meaning that may not be intended. It's not necessarily a matter of semantics, but of concept and belief. Peter Lynch, emeritus professor at UCD school of mathematics and statistics writes an article on this here:
Aside from the above article, found with a search for "articles about nothing," Google once again fails the conscientious searcher, as the results contain articles that only purport to be about nothing, or have nothing in the title, rather than being about nothing. A post that rambles and says nothing is not an article about nothing. Yet that's what Google is serving up in this search.
The first post that actually addresses the query is in position #5 - The importance of nothing | Nature
Because It's Not There : Mount Nothing - by Rev Sale
Motivated adventurers climb that mountain because it's there. Philosophers are motivated to argue about Nothing because it's not. It should be all about the discovery that comes from challenge, but it's been a sad fact that arguing about something that is not there has been dangerous, even deadly, for what it may lead you to believe and express in public. And it can take you far from the comfort zone of friendly chatter, to a place where the conversation is more fraught with ideas like "existence" and enters into the realm of religion. Using the idea of nothingness, philosophers since ancient times have made logical arguments for both the existence of God, as well as proof that God could not exist. Arguing about Nothing was once very serious stuff - back in the day, this kind of discourse could get you killed. Killed for Nothing!
But Nothing is no longer the serious topic it once was. I'm seeing jokes and frivolous commentary being published as genuine Nothing posts, as if it were something to provide levity when serious consideration should be center stage. People, if we don't get serious about Nothing, who will?
So I'm taking this opportunity to challenge the philosophers to defend their notions of Nothing when confronted with some real world arguments & common sense about what it really is. You see the question, "What is Nothing?" contradicts the idea of nothingness because it assumes it is something you can explain. But if it is something you can explain, it is no longer Nothing.
[Rev Sale advises against accepting arguments that conflate the idea of Nothing with the word "nothing."]
Let's start with the difference between Nothing and Zero. I contend that Nothing is a pure idea distinct from the mathematical notion of Zero, which is a value, a number. Using set theory, mathematics defines the empty set to be equivalent to zero, a value. So the set of all the iguanas that use after shave lotion is zero - that is zero iguanas. But how about the intersection of the set of all iguanas with the set of all billboards? That intersection would be considered an empty set, but has no meaning as a numerical value. We believe this particular empty set logically represents Nothing, not zero.
The opposite of something often provides important clues about it. The notion of the opposite of Nothing starts a philosophical discussion that leads to existentialism - the argument for existence. Framed another way, the opposite of the absence of anything, is anything - existence. Many religions hold existence and creation to be under God's domain or his given gifts, which complicates things for those making these arguments.
Once you bring God into the picture, the philosophers can come up with multiple, sometimes contradictory conclusions. For example, here's a proof that Nothing = Everything:
-1- If God created the universe from Nothing, then Nothing must be God. God = Nothing
-2- And since Nothing became the universe, the universe is God. God = Everything
God = Nothing
God = Everything
Nothing = Everything
Do Not Confuse Words With Ideas
The notion of Nothing should not be confused with the word "nothing." We have to use a word to describe the idea, but the word is not the idea. And there are some common sense, grammatical rules surrounding the appropriate use of the word "nothing" when the intended meaning is the idea of Nothing. For example, it should have no gender. There is no masculine or feminine versions of "nothing." There is no plural - no such thing as multiple "nothings" or zero "nothings." It can never be good or bad. Don't try to describe how it looks. It is a noun that is less than passive - Nothing never does anything nor has anything done to it. And in common usage we don't acknowledge that semantically speaking, nothing IS something, even though we also know that Nothing can't be a word. If you're talking about the word, then you're not talking about Nothing.
[Rev Sale advises against accepting arguments that conflate the idea of Nothing with the word "nothing."]
If the search for Nothing yields anything it is that because the notion of Nothing is such an inherently powerful concept, it is provocative. In the thoughtful realm of scholars and philosophers, it provokes considerable examination leading to arguments concerning belief systems and existence. The historic arguments that attempt to define and derive conclusions related to this discourse are disseminated by the philosophy departments of established universities, and is part of a scholarly legacy going back to the ancients. Here, it is a revered idea that demands respect and serious reflection.
Not so much in the real world. Although the word "nothing" has become part of everyday conversation, it never is used to mean the idea of Nothing. It's most likely used as in idiom, and as a result its real meaning is very difficult to parse.
Nothing to it. It was nothing. Nothing short of. Nothing but the best. Nothing can stop us. We have nothing to fear. Nothing doing. You owe nothing more. Nothing to do. He deserves nothing less than jail.
The reason for this confusion between the notion and the word is that actual meaning of the most common word "nothing" is very likely derived from other words - probably a shortening of: "no thing," "not something," or "not anything." Through this evolutionary language process the word "nothing" has become divorced from the idea Nothing.
"nothing" ≠ Nothing
A common understanding of the meaning of words used is foundational to the crafting of effective philosophical arguments. But those arguments regarding the idea of Nothing rely on definitions that immediately bring conclusions to bear even when trying to define it. If the notion of Nothing is the absence of anything, the definition of "anything" becomes critical to the understanding of Nothing. If the notion of Nothing is empty space, the meaning of "space" determines the understanding of Nothing. If the notion of Nothing equivalent to the mathematical notion of zero, the meaning of "zero" plays the important role. But all of these arguments are semantic, not substantive. And I can argue that Nothing really has no definition, because a definition is an equivalency and there is no equivalent to Nothing. This why the only real approach to understanding the idea of Nothing is philosophical. The subject is something that does not exist so it's all the more interesting.
Nothing vs Space
The scholars seem to spend a lot of time on the difference between space and nothing with many claiming they are equivalent. I consider space to be something, not Nothing. You could not put something into nothing, but you can put objects into space. Also in reality, the actual space in the heavens in our universe is full of stuff - gases, radiation, light, comets, asteroids, junk, so definitely not Nothing.
words and ideas words can be defined
This suggests that we should be using 2 different words
The Marketing Of Nothing
The Monetization Of Nothing
Nothing has hit the front page of The New York Times
How Nothingness Became Everything We Wanted
Some entrpreneurs are betting that experiencing Nothing can be sold as a way to improve your overall state of wellness. Following a horrendous year featuring increasingly troublesome stresses in many areas of our everyday lives, Kyle Chayka wants to de-stress, and signs up for a wellness service that seeks to provide the restorative experience of nothingness via sensory-deprivation using a "float spa." This is a booming industry with 500+ spas running in North America. It's successfully selling the idea of Nothing as a therapy.
"Like many wellness trends, floating combines tangible physical benefits with nebulous mental ones, pitched to prey upon our collective anxiety. It promises faster muscle recovery, a calmer nervous system and heightened creativity — all this in exchange for erasing your existence for an hour or two. The shallow Epsom-salted water buoys your body like a fishing-lure bob, removing the need to think about your corporeal presence at all. Perhaps most important, it’s impossible to hold your phone while immersed."
Kyle finds more evidence of this desire for nothingness, like the yoga studio advertising "Log out. Shut down. Do yoga.” REI marketed a garment that “Feels like nothing. And that means everything.” And the omnipresent noise-canceling headphones addressing our desire to block out our surroundings with constant sound. Behind this desire for nothingness, The Economist argued, “The shared world is increasingly intolerable.”
Nothing For Christmas
Growler Radio is a 27 program audio storytelling series produced by Bob Sakayama. In the recording Growler Radio 14 the kids all want something called Nothing for Christmas. But even more intriguing is the existence of Nothing Remover. This is kids storytelling taking a philosopher's detour. Try to explain what you think Nothing Remover is used for. You might first need to think about what Nothing is. And how it got into a tube.
What Does Nothing Look Like?
These images, used by permission, originally accompanied two vintage seo themed posts about Nothing from Rev Sale, circa 2005:
We live in a culture that is busy. It does not promote being still. Being busy is sometimes a measure of importance. Rather we may notice that busy often correlates with stature, and so if we're not busy, we may not be performing at peak. But being busy can be stressful. And not being busy can also be stressful if it's seen as not living up to a busy standard.The Dutch have a word - "niksen" - it's a verb that means to do nothing. And behind the word is a cultural philosophy that encourages it as a way to connect to the world and see life as it happens to be a positive influence on our well being. The Dutch in their wisdom see benefits of idleness. And daydreaming, an unavoidable consequence of idleness, “literally makes us more creative, better at problem-solving, better at coming up with creative ideas.”
This article in the NY Times speaks to the benefits of consciously doing nothing. "More practically, the idea of niksen is to take conscious, considered time and energy to do activities like gazing out of a window or sitting motionless. The less-enlightened might call such activities “lazy” or “wasteful.” Again: nonsense."
The End Of Nothing
How Does The Search For Nothing End?
Politics is an area where nothing reigns freely. Nothing has more political traction and is likely to always be the center of every important debate on virtually any topic in Congress. This seems likely to be a precursor to a disaster of some significant scale. Possibly THE END.
And when it all crashes down, Nothing will be our Saving Grace. When we look back on it years from now, we will surely be able to say that when it looked like all was about to be lost, Nothing saved us, and we are thus indebted.
Nothing Gets No Respect From Google
So far, in our search for nothing, we've discovered that Google search results are a disappointment to say the least - a real failure when it comes to addressing one of the most compelling philosophical arguments that define mankind: What is nothingness? But hopefully, articles and posts like this one will bring more attention to this clearly underappreciated concept and more real information in the search results may bring some enlightenment to those who seek "nothing" - it should not be a fruitless search. Anyone searching for nothing should be able to find it.
Just because we've had an excruciatingly long conversation about Nothing does not mean there is nothing more to say. There is never nothing more to say.
Exceptions To The Rules Of Nothing
What about the nothingburger?
Food for thought
Nothing on it
With No fries
It's going for, "There's nothing to see here" while actually signaling the opposite
"It's really nothing"
"Nothing short of..."
"Nothing in mind"
"Nothing could keep me from..."
Nothing in the vernacular:
Consider the following from Rev Sale's It Came From Nothing:
"The realization was sudden, and Doris now understood - there was nothing she could do to prevent a creature that size from entering her home. She also noted that they were at that point in the script where someone had to die, and nothing was going to stand in her way of making the most of it. Getting ripped to shreds could be the highlight of her career, so she insisted her gory exit be nothing if not poignant."
Note how essential nothing is to the drama.