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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Revision as of 21:24, 11 August 2012


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Indirect Detection
I'm like a prisoner in Plato's Cave, seeing only the shade you throw on the wall.
Title text: I'm like a prisoner in Plato's Cave, seeing only the shade you throw on the wall.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a PLATONIC PRISONER. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.

This comic shows an angry social media post by one of Randall's spiky-haired friends, decrying the practice of some of that person's friends—in this case apparently some of these friends like to make jokes in poor taste about animals in animal shelters. Sometimes when posting something on social media, such as Facebook, that post can be seen by all the people you have designated as your "friends." In this case the original comment was intended to be read by the people posting the inappropriate comments, people who are not direct friends of Randall's and whose posts he therefore could not see, but because it was posted by his direct friend he could read that response to the inappropriate comments and was able to imagine what it was those other people were saying. Knowing a little about what these other mystery people are saying, through direct quotes from within his friend's comment, and having to fill in the rest by his imagination, he concludes there are some awful people out there, and reflects on how weird it is to have an indirect link to them.

The title text is a pun comparing the shadows of Plato's cave to the practice of "throwing shade" (slang for throwing insults, usually subtly), and "the wall" could have a double meaning of both the wall of the cave and the term for someone's social media page.

Plato's Cave is an allegorical tale taking place in a hypothetical cave. The lifelong occupants of the cave cannot see the outside world but instead see events at the cave entrance only as shadows of firelight upon the cave wall; lacking a more complete or direct source of information, the cave occupants can only guess about the outside world by interpreting these shadows as a view of the world itself and therefore base their other beliefs about the outside world upon the transitory appearances of these shadows. In this way, Plato's Cave serves as an allegory for our limited understanding of phenomena that occur primarily or entirely outside direct perception by our natural senses.

In the same way one might make incorrect assumptions about the makeup and chemical properties of air if one's information on the subject were gathered entirely from watching wind blow through leaves, the hypothetical occupants of Plato's Cave may reasonably be expected to produce wildly inaccurate theories about the outside world, a world they experience only as a kind of shadowplay.

A further joke behind the pun about "throwing shade" may be that judging anything based only upon the most outrageous points of measurement available will likely produce an inaccurate assessment.

Transcript

[A single social media post is shown. On the top left is a portrait of a spiky-haired face, the text right aside is not readable. The post is:]
Everyone on here needs to stop laughing about how "adopting pets from a shelter is for losers" and "those animals should all be hunted for sport instead." It's reprehensible on so many levels! First of all...
[Caption below the frame:]
Sometimes, one of my friends posts an angry response to some terrible opinion I've never heard before, and it's a weird indirect way to learn how awful their other friends must be.


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