[ExI] Universal languages (was: wta-talk Voting Members ...)

Bryan Bishop kanzure at gmail.com
Fri Dec 28 15:22:55 UTC 2007

This is off-topic (again), but the topic of communication is important, 
and it seems to me that this would be more appropriate for the 
extropian mailing list.

On Friday 28 December 2007, Riccardo Campa wrote:
> If we want to overcome the language barrier we should invent a new
> common World language.

On the subject of a universal language ...

Computer communication already uses a worldwide protocol (stuff like 
ASCII and Unicode). Computers then run extra software to interpret the 
information and display it in a language that the user finds suitable. 
So, in a sense, there's already an underlying world language.

But you might argue that it is not truly a language like English or 
Japanese or Esperanto, and in a sense you would be correct because 
meaning is not directly communicated nor necessarily 'understood' by 
the computers. To this I might point out that it is the same with any 
natural language and any artifiicial language. The words themselves 
have context, and this context must be embraced and understood and 
explored in order to fully comprehend ... no matter the language, 
artificial or natural, a World one or not.

To create an "international codified meaning system" would be stifling; 
just look all around you at the millions of diverse cultures and the so 
many strange, bizarre meanings that different people hold. Are we to 
codify all of these and rule with an iron fist? No, I can't imagine 
that as ever being useful. Instead, what we need is a way to approach 
any 'meaningful' thing in the world -- no matter it be a person, an 
object, an alien culture, a foreign idea, whatever (contexts) -- and 
somehow synchronize our meanings together (which sounds forceful) or if 
not to sync then to find an interface or translation gradient by which 
our information can be codified per that system (just as a child might 
only think in simple terms, an adult explaining a topic must encode 
greater thoughts into simpler thoughts, a difficult task).

Oddly the above leads to questions like, "What would it be like to share 
meaning with a boulder," but those questions stray from the original 
intentions of interfacing with people-contexts. Anyway, if we ever 
discover this art of interfacing with contexts, I would think it end up 
a sort of institution to train people to work and think in such a way 
so that they *can* communicate with anybody in the world if they spend 
enough time. Many of us should know the pains we go through just to 
communicate with each other even though we already speak the same 
language. By training more individuals in this art, which I suspect 
others could discover (or already have discovered) on their own, we can 
communicate more effectively without imposing Standards upon the rest 
of the world with an iron fist. After all: the world is already 
interfacing with itself, thanks to contextualism and the laws of 
thermodynamics stating that this is not a closed system.

A World Language would not provide that. At best, and with the best 
possible magic, you could go around the world and do intense studies to 
codify every living person's "meaning framework" at this very moment, 
and then have that as your World Language, but how are you going to 
keep up with the growth of populations, of meanings and of contexts?

And I just feel like mentioning Leibniz's universal language project:
> Leibniz believed that much of human reasoning could be reduced to
> calculations of a sort, and that such calculations could resolve many 
> differences of opinion:  

> "The only way to rectify our reasonings is to make them as tangible as 
> those of the Mathematicians, so that we can find our error at a 
> glance, and when there are disputes among persons, we can simply say: 
> Let us calculate [calculemus], without further ado, to see who is 
> right." (The Art of Discovery 1685, W 51)    

> Because Leibniz was a mathematical novice when he first wrote about
> the characteristic, at first he did not conceive it as an algebra but 
> rather as a universal language or script. Only in 1676 did he conceive 
> of a kind of "algebra of thought," modeled on and including 
> conventional algebra and its notation. The resulting characteristic 
> included a logical calculus, some combinatorics, algebra, his analysis 
> situs (geometry of situation) discussed in 3.2, a universal concept 
> language, and more.       

- Bryan
Bryan Bishop

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