Cuil Theory is the idea that degrees of conceptual abstraction, recursion, or overall "meta-ness," can be measured objectively. A cuil, depicted by the interrobang symbol , is the base unit to indicate one degree of abstraction away from a source idea or piece of media. If, for example, a book describes real historical events and is written by a person who experienced them firsthand, then the book is 1‽ away from reality. Then, if a film is based directly off the book, rather than off the events, the film is 2‽ away from reality. Supposing the original book was written not by a primary source, but by a person who interviewed witnesses and participants, then an additional level of abstraction is created, and the film is now at 3‽.

The phrase "I give you a hamburger" is a shibboleth or cult phrase among Cuil Theorists and people familiar with its origins on reddit. The phrase originated when reddit user RedDyeNumber4 wrote a long series of scenarios, all based around the transfer of ownership of a hamburger, in an attempt to illustrate how much surreal abstraction from reality could be measured within each cuil increment. At the time, cuils were already accepted within the discussion as a unit for measuring recursive or derivative abstraction from a source event or piece of media, but it was RedDyeNumber4 who extended the use of cuils for measuring surreality, and by extension into negative cuils, hyperreality.

According to RedDyeNumber4, abstraction can be measured in terms of increasing degree of surreality or hyperreality, such as in dadaist art. If a totally realistic and ordinary scenario exists as 0‽, such as one person giving another person a hamburger, then a less ordinary but still possible scenario might be 1‽, such as one person giving another person a hamburger made of raccoon meat. 2‽ might be an unrealistic and unusual scenario, such as a person receiving a hamburger, only to have the hamburger promptly transform into a live raccoon. As the scenario approaches "infinite cuils," maximum surrealism, the elements that compose the scenario become decreasingly comprehensible to a real observer, and they become decreasingly recognizable as having been derived and abstracted from that specific original 0‽ scenario.

"Negative infinite cuils" would be maximum hyperreality, a state of such exacting detail of description that the original 0‽ scenario is no longer recognizable, simply having been lost in the details. A -1‽ scenario might be, "I give you a hamburger containing ketchup, mustard, and pickles, on a Tuesday in July." A -5‽ scenario might elaborate on the origins of every topping, the hamburger giver, the hamburger recipient, and the global state of affairs on that particular Tuesday in July, as well as how the bovine felt as it was led to the abattoir.

"Cuil" may be pronounced /kul/, /kjul/, /kwil/, or /kwɪl/; the word is derived from the now-defunct Cuil search engine. Cuil Theory evolved on reddit, tumblr, and a designated wikidot forum, beginning in 2008, and there is still an active "Cuilist" community populating the latter. Cuilists as a group attempt to derive mathematical analogues between abstraction degrees and real mathematical systems, and several scales have been proposed for the actual measurement of cuils, including logarithmic, exponential, linear, and graphic cartesian systems. Some cuilists approach Cuil Theory more philosophically, with much reference given to Immanuel Kant and Jacques Derrida.

Iron Noder Challenge 2014, 10/30

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