Re: Linguist's Of The Apocalypse, unite!

Eliezer Yudkowsky (
Thu, 30 Jan 1997 12:06:58 -0600

[Saith Lee Daniel Crocker:]
> The comment to which I replied was something along the lines of "in
> 100 years, you wouldn't recognize English", and I disagree. The
> factors that lead to the changes from Chaucer to Shakespeare to
> modern English just aren't there anymore: today we travel more, we
> interact with more people, we all watch the same television shows
> and movies. 400 years from now, there will be lots of new vocabulary
> for the new technologies and new social forms, but today's English
> will be understandable to those children without effort--including
> its present sounds, which have changed more over the years than
> writing simply because writing has been around longer than sound
> recording. In fact, it is interesting to note that speakers of
> different dialects of Chinese today understand each other only with
> considerable effort, but they both can read Lao-Tsu with ease.

[Let it be known that the following post is in the subjunctive mode.
I do not believe that there will be enough TIME for English to change.]

Here's an interesting idea: Automatic translation.

Not just automatic translation from English to Chinese, but from English
to English. In fact, English to English would seem so much easier. An
Ebonics-to-English or English-to-Ebonics automatic translator might be
employed for Web-surfing by the disadvantaged. I do not support this
idea - in fact I think it's lunacy - but many modern educators might
think otherwise.

The result, assuming no Singularity and continuing for the next 100

No languages. Or at least, no universal public languages. Errors
accumulate. A child learns two languages from its parents, blends them
together, and goes on to coin neologisms and alter syntactic principles
to taste. But the loving automatic translators ensure that there's no

So 100 years from now, there might be some individual languages that are
recognizably English, but not very many of them - say 1 in 1000. What
was that about the Internet melting pot and sound-recording error


"When making a prediction based on a technological trend, ask yourself
what technology could lead to the exact opposite of what you predicted.
If that technology could move faster than the trend on which your
prediction is based, rethink your prophecy."
-- Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (


--      Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.