Last weekend, at the humanity+ conference in San Francisco, Ben Goertzel, live from Hong Kong, via Skype, graced us with his predictions on the future of communication. According to Ben, in the future we will be able to transmit semantic graphs, or chunks of mind, completely bypassing linguistic utterance, that is your tongue, your jaw, vocal cords, throat, breathing apparatus and everything that goes with articulating speech. The first thought that occurred to me was “OMG. I won’t have to do the Theophilus Thistle drill ever again”. Great. But then I thought, “Wait a second. Is content really separate from form?”
See my comments on brain-2-brain communication first: http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/comments/brain2brain20121003/
To recap, language is a set of arbitrary signifiers that become meaningful through their shared use in culture (in a shared world). Yes we have brain representations, but those are likely to be private, all our brains are slightly different, there is no one-to-one perfect correspondence between brains.
So communicating “semantic graphs” (if those are even explicit in the brain), would involve developing a mapping between one brains cortical representation and another. What is that mapping? Its a language. So we have come full circle.
Yes our linguistic communication does depend on our “tongue, your jaw, vocal cords, throat, breathing apparatus”, but that is not the essential feature—- its the mapping between two point of view, mediated by some material. Any communication requires a language, and a shared world in which to develop it.
Regarding subtext. I think the only way to get at people thoughts would be to capture the state of the entire brain. We have different regions specialized for different functions, emotion, breathing, digestion, visual images, etc. The meaning of any one word comes from the way that word lights up many, if not all, of these systems to varying degrees. That is interpretation, the effect of a stimulus on all our cognitive faculties, and our cognitive faculties effect on our perception of the stimulus.
Arbitrary choices would have to be made to constrain what parts of the brain are read for communication. It is even possible that we could communicate desires or ideas that we are not consciously aware of at all. The problem is that this threshold of what to read and what not to read would be arbitrary: there is no single line between subtext and meaning, it depends on context and intention. So lets just track the “intentional” parts of the brain for communication, well that would likely end up being brain-reading of our linguistic systems, just shy of the tongue, jaw. etc.
We are very very good at thinking about brains as some atomic element, but the motor cortices are very close to the muscles, to the point that reading the motor cortex of the brain is only a tiny step from reading the muscle itself. Same goes for retinas and early visual cortex, cochlea and auditory cortex. etc. Why are we so obsessed about brain-reading when it is so functionally similar reading PNS and beyond?
There can be no communication without language (a perceivable arrangement of matter/engery that impacts two agents in similar ways as to generate shared meaning).
Posted by CygnusX1 on 12/06 at 04:05 PM
The author appears to be conflating efficient with deficient?
Language is transformed into symbolic representation and back again, without shared experience and symbolism it would be impossible for humans to communicate/understand each other?
“Efficient” communication between minds would be of immense benefit for sharing, communication and understanding?
However, I would still wish to hear the voice of a human singing? Which is tantamount to what you are advocating here?
No argument there, only be aware we can still apply all forms of communication for translation as symbolism and sharing?