Immodest disposal

AI-merged reality will not be possible until humans straighten language.

Peace, order, freedom, opportunity, all that we seek can never come to us until all people of every nation and condition can understand one another exactly, instantly. There can be no true justice, no true education until everyone comprehends, as well as you and I, the words of our laws and sciences. Orders can neither be given nor followed accurately.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.etymonline.com/columns/post/immodest-disposal
1 Like

As I see it, one needs experience to understand the words and text. The deeper and broader the experience, the better the understanding. Without experiencing the various forms of love, for example, it is just a shallow and exceptionally confusing word.

The AI has no direct experience whatsoever. From this perspective, the thing that has the capacity to improve the human communication is not some AI newspeak, but wisely/responsibly used psychedelics (and also stories and plays!) that enable us to experience the world and ourselves in a broader and less self-limiting way.

As humans, we have natural means of perception that can be greatly limited by trauma, both on individual and collective level. By integrating experiences that could have been at one point traumatic we come to the understanding… Even to the better understanding what love is.

This is surely a joke, yes? If it is, it’s quite well executed, though the ambiguity could perhaps have been avoided by publishing it a month and 4 days ago.

Great article Dough! I’ve appreciated the subtle irony dripping off your words perhaps even more than the effort it must have cost you to play Devil’s advocate, if only for fun… :wink:

In fact you know perfectly well that the ominous AIspeak hypothesized by you is theoretically impossible, at least as long as humans stay the way they have been ever since they climbed down the trees and started using tools. Otherwise lawyers, politicians, dictators, priests, humorists and everyone else who makes his living by juggling words would starve within a few weeks.

I believe it’s a common misapprehension to regard a language - any human language - as a monolithic entity that can be thoroughly described by a complete dictionary and a few thick grammar and syntax tomes. Being made by humans for humans, a language is actually a spontaneous aggregate of countless parts, too often discouragingly overlapping, each of them covering a different area of human communication.
On one end we have a very tiny section where each word has a univocal meaning and can be translated unambiguously with a mere lookup table. Your AIspeak actually, perfectly suited for the simplest computer or for a bureaucrat.
On the opposite end there’s a large area filled with words whose meanings we “feel” without really understanding them - not just names attached to our feelings but also words for elusive concepts such as “I”, “God”, “intelligence”, “sentient”… you name them.
Somewhere in between (or on another end, it’s a matter of taste) there’s a section overcrowded with mouth-fillers, guaranteed harmless words devoided of any meaning to be used when the brain is empty.
Then there are so many sections specifically dedicated to every conceivable profession, activity, science (real or wannabe), art, hobby and whatnot. And that’s just the beginning of a very, very long list.

It looks to me a sort of wicked miracle that today a mere machine, an intrinsically deterministic and relentlessly logical contraption, may be forced to make heads or tails of the unholy mess I tried to sketch above, to the point where it can provide almost perfect human-sounding replies as if it really understood the language, even detecting humor, metaphors and figures of speech, and responding in kind.

But in this case it’s the machine that emulates the human, not the other way around.
Thus it’s not unreasonable to expect that, as the technological sophistication level rises, the machine will become gradually more human rather than the humans more computer-like.

At least that’s my hope - occasionally frustrated by the sight of some empty-eyed youngsters “being thinked” by their smartphones, apparently unaware that there’s a whole real world around them. :worried:

Maybe change the pronunciation to “¡Ay!” …

1 Like

It took me way too long to figure out what was happening in this article. I spent most of it going, “What the f*** is Doug thinking?” Rereading the article gave me a lot of insight into the beautiful, nuanced, messy qualities that make language language. As always, thanks for a great article!

2 Likes

I think it is agreed by all parties that the complexity of our language is a very great additional grievance to the sorry state of the world, and I am sure the whittling of words till they find their proper shape will be very beneficial to the Publick.

Thanks for a great read.

1 Like

At least that’s my hope - occasionally frustrated by the sight of some empty-eyed youngsters “being thinked” by their smartphones, apparently unaware that there’s a whole real world around them. :worried:

Well said. I’m relatively young but managed to avoid this effect probably from being raised to question these things…it is deeply creepy and concerning to see people who imagine they are the next generation of forward progress but get their every idea from some influencer-who-doesn’t-use-the-word and repeat stock phrases and slogans without analyzing any of it. When you do, it falls apart.

1 Like

On the other hand the complexity of individual languages and dialects reflect faithfully history, traditions and way of life of the peoples that developed them. Flattening them down to get them suited for universal understanding would cost an irreversible, irretrievable loss.
A possible solution might be to retain our languages and dialects the way they are and allow them to evolve in the natural way, but learn to master well enough a second language that everyone in the world understands.
At the moment the simplified English pidgin used on the web seems to fulfill pretty well this requirement. Cross your fingers that some day it may expand into a fully fledged second language for us all :slightly_smiling_face:

I think this has already happened. Lojban, anyone?

(I think a variation of English that has been mangled to force it to accommodate the unambiguous nature of Lojban grammar would probably be less terrible than actual Lojban.)

retain our languages and dialects the way they are … but learn to master well enough a second language that everyone in the world understands.
That is how the AI-masters will pitch it to us. And like immigrants, we may keep up both for a generation. But there will be money and power in only one of them. The other will be for talking to grandma. And after her? No people wastes the brains to keep up two entire languages without something like religious ritual to keep them at it. That’s how they sell you Hell.

Quite a share of the planet denizens switch habitually between two mother tongues (three or four in the border areas) with great ease: one is the official language they are supposed to use at school and with Important People, the other is the dialect they speak at home and with the friends - a dialect with a lexicon, a grammar and a syntax of its own that may have very little in common with the lingua franca.
No brain waste, a human skull can accommodate an unspecified number of languages.
And no religion behind the dialects to sell its Gods, it’s just a matter of habit, tradition and pleasure of “feeling among peers”.

I believe that acquiring another common language wouldn’t be that terribly demanding, in particular if it flashes hopes of money and easier life.