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10 - 3 = 13, the math of giving

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posted on May, 24 2010 @ 10:50 AM
This is from Lynne McTaggart's blog, and I thought it was a very interesting and uplifting story.

So this particular researcher asked a member of the Suya tribe what was the correct answer to the following numerical problems: If you had 10 fish and gave away three fish, how many would you have?

The Suya answered without hesitation and as though the researcher were a bit dull-witted to have even asked the question.

As anybody in the village could tell you, the answer, of course, is 13.

Minus equals plus

This was how he worked it out. In the Suya tradition, whenever you give something away to someone else, the recipient pays you back double. So if he gave three fish to his brother, he said, his brother would have to give him back two times three fish, or six. So added to his 10 original fish he would first have 16 fish.

Once he deducted the three fish he originally gave his brother, he would have a net increase of three, or 13.

So, 10-3 = 7 in Western mathematics transforms into 10 + (2×3) – 3 = 13 in Suya mathematics.

In fact, the native was dismayed at the American version of the equation. He does not view giving away as equivalent to subtraction. He finds the entire notion of it abhorrent.

“Why is it that ‘giving’ is always seen as a ‘minus’ for white people?’ another member of the tribe asked. “I know that you want me to use the minus sign instead of the plus sign, but I don’t understand why.”

Full story here.

I think it's a beautful example of how "primitive" peoples can be so much more civilized than we are. I'm very glad to see that some members here posted positive, motivational threads here in the last few days. I'm getting so sick of all the doom and gloom and the "me, me, me" attitude that seems to pervade our society. I, too, would like to be more giving and caring and compassionate and non-judgmental, but I've definitely got a long way to go.

Maybe, instead of getting off on reading and endlessly debating all the gloom and doom that's going on, we should share more messages of hope and humanity with each other. There are hundreds of thousands of people on here -- all we have to do is create a critical mass of positive individuals (you know, the 100th monkey thing -- and our world could be a much better place.

[edit on 24-5-2010 by sylvie]

posted on May, 24 2010 @ 11:11 AM
Well, that's fine and dandy in that situation, but in a real mathematical context, such notions would ruin many things.

Like, say you have 100 people in a village, and 30 of them die of malaria. This does not mean that when those 30 people die, that you will have 130 people in the village.
It means you'll have 70. Maybe, given a few years, the population would go back up to 130, but it would have done so regardless of whether those people died of malaria or not. In fact, it probably would have happened sooner.

posted on May, 24 2010 @ 11:14 AM
reply to post by LususNaturae

Yeah and that probably meant mating season

It would make sense..

[edit on 24-5-2010 by adkchamp]

posted on May, 24 2010 @ 11:28 AM
I think this is a perfect example to show how, just like everything else, math as we know it is man made. We make rules...and we follow them and the math works out everytime.

It is the same with this tribe...they have made rules...and by their rules their "equations" will work out everytime.

It doesn't mean our "math" is correct or is just the way we have made it up...honestly we just made it up. A lot of people like to say that math is a universal language or a universal concept...and I honestly don't think it is. I think the only concept in "math" that is universal is that if you stick to the rules you create...everything will work out correctly.

I have always thought that we may be held back by the type of "math" we have constructed. Either by the number system we use or some of the math "rules" we have invented. I still think that is true and this story gives me a big smile on my face.

Now I know some people will come here and tell me I am just wrong...and that this tribe is just wrong and doesn't understand...that is fine...I don't mind at all...but why must there be a right and wrong??? Maybe they are both two "rights"...or 100 "rights"...or infinite "rights". You just never know.

posted on May, 24 2010 @ 11:39 AM

Originally posted by OutKast Searcher
A lot of people like to say that math is a universal language or a universal concept...and I honestly don't think it is. I think the only concept in "math" that is universal is that if you stick to the rules you create...everything will work out correctly.

Than how do you explain that the entire universe can be "understood" using mathematical equations?

An intelligent scientist once said something like:

The mere fact that we can understand the universe in terms of math is itself quite profound.

If math were merely created, which I'm not saying it couldn't have been at some point, it wasn't by us. The universe is incredibly mathematically sound so the creation of "math" would have existed before the universe was "laid out". If it was the other way around, we would never be able to use our current equations to accurately figure out distances and speed in the universe. Our formulations of course having been proven along the way by actually sending equipment out there and verifying the initial equations.

As far as the OP, if everyone operated on a "pay-it-forward" mentality the world would want for nothing. However, whereas the tribe can kick out those that don't contribute equally or don't give back twice what they received, countries and governments can't.

I believe it is the acceptance of mediocrity that causes it to "spread". A zero tolerance policy on selfishness would certainly eliminate more than 99% of the problems we now face in my opinion.

posted on May, 24 2010 @ 11:54 AM
Damn, wouldn't I like to live by that equation and screw standard math in the face!
That goes to show how tribes untouched by Western money making and individual ideals are the best!!
I would like to travel to a place untouched by scars of humanity. They can teach you a lot about love and life and some bizarre rituals you can practice in the confines of your home.

posted on May, 24 2010 @ 12:02 PM
Mathematics is an observation of physical constructs and changes.

And while you may question the legitimacy of what it is that we see, that is really all that we have.

In the world of mathematics; 10 - 3 does not equal 13. It only equals 13 through a modification. The equation this tribal figure is thinking of is NOT 10 - 3. It is (10 - 3) + 6. Which is an entirely different ordeal than the first equation presented.

It is a modification based on societal norms, not anything relevant to true mathematics.


As for being more civilized. To me, it doesn't seem any different than what we have. Unless you are noting that you GIVE someone dollar, and they give you something of LESS value.

I'm also wondering if this is specifically for trades, or if it goes for being charitable as well.

posted on May, 24 2010 @ 12:06 PM
This is a problem with culture, not with math. Ten minus three will give you seven, that’s truth. He is doing something that negates the meaning of math by adding hope and faith into it. Hope that there will always be more fish, faith that his brother will indeed decide to return double the amount taken. These things are called variables and math accounts for them when done correctly.

To say he is more civil than because of this speaks of you and your apparent readiness to glorify hope and faith over reason all because his intentions are good.

(10 + (2*3))– 3 is the correct formula for his new math problem. Math makes sense!

[edit on 24-5-2010 by Fear_Fear]

posted on May, 24 2010 @ 12:22 PM
reply to post by lpowell0627

I'm not trying to say that our way of doing math doesn't obviously does. It works and works the same every time. What I am trying to say is that our way of doing math may not be the only way to do math. I'm also saying our "math" may be correct up to a point...but because of possible flaws...we may not be able to ever move past a certain point.

I have always saw some things in math as potential flaws. I'm not sure our concept of zero is accurate...IMO you should be able to divide by zero...but you can't do it with our current concept of zero. Infinity is also a problem for us. Then we have imaginary numbers and special rules when working with them that don't apply to other numbers. Then we have pi...I have a big problem with a "number" as important as pi being an irrational number...something just doesn't sit right with me about that.

The fact is that we designed our numbering system as base 10, most likely because we have 10 fingers. And that is how we based most of our mathmatical rules. We can convert to other bases...most of which are integer bases...but it is still all the same. I'm convinced (although with no proof or knowledge of) that there is a more universal numbering system out there that would make math and the universe a more understandable place. I also think that it is silly to use the same numbering system for every application...why use the same numbering system to figure out the volume of a sphere as you do to figure out the current or voltage of a system???

Just my random thoughts...nothing else really.

posted on May, 24 2010 @ 01:22 PM
I've even registered on ATS to clarify this thread

I think that the thread title is kind of misleading.

The original question was not a mathematic equation. It was about giving away fish.
So it has nothing to do with mathematics actually. It's about mindset of these people.

10 – 3 = 7, it's obvious, and these people (Suya tribe) surely understand this.
But do an average western man understand that giving away is not necessarily a "minus"?

I think that's what really important here.

posted on May, 24 2010 @ 10:39 PM

Than how do you explain that the entire universe can be "understood" using mathematical equations?

An intelligent scientist once said something like:

The mere fact that we can understand the universe in terms of math is itself quite profound.

So when did man gain a full understanding of the Universe? That is news to me...

In-fact I have come across examples of where there were situations in space that completely went against some of our mathematics.

But with that being said I don't think this article proves anything other than that a tribe demands interest on all things given to someone else. I would hardly call it being more civilized.

I thought the article was going to be about giving when I read the title but more in a way that if you give away 3 of something to someone it is really 13 because you were kind enough to donate and it's a good thing to help others. Turns out to just be a story of a tribe who's math is based around what someone owes you.

[edit on 24-5-2010 by TV_Nation]


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