Re: Linguist's Of The Apocalypse, unite!

Eliezer Yudkowsky (
Sat, 01 Feb 1997 18:19:51 -0600

[said I:]
> } Whoa! We aren't talking transhumans here; transhumans would simply
> } communicate *thought* directly without need for language. Telepathy, in
> } a word. After all, (your) thought to English to (your friend's)
[Damien Broderick replies:]
> Many of my thoughts, especially the rigorous ones, are in English. At
> any rate, I don't buy your thesis: thoughts won't magically jump from
> one mind to another, unless they're borging, and whatever you use to
> communicate complex ideas between discrete minds is language.

I'm using language in the sense of, say, describing whatever Broca's
area does, not in the sense of "programming language" or "encoding".
Sure, if I transfer visual experiences directly from my occipital lobe
to yours, you could call it "language", but this is torturing the
phrase. No words, no syntax, no symbols - no language.

As for Damien's point about the "rigorous" thoughts being in English...
did I post my conjecture about the linguistic-semantic cycle here?
Apparently not. Well, anyway, from a discussion with someone who
started talking about "models of models of models of self" in the mind:

> Rather than moving offs in the direction of self-referential
> ordinals, I prefer to conceptualize the mind as being composed of many
> interacting modules, many of which have the power to refer to each
> other. This discrete model removes many of the paradoxes involved in
> the "self-reference" which results from viewing the mind as a unitary
> lump, and gave rise to the "meta-perceptions *are* perceptions" model of
> modelling above.
> For example, your reasoning thoughts also present themselves as
> auditory data which are then interpreted by the sentence-understanding
> module as semantic data about which we can reason; it is this loop which
> allows one to reason about reason and which is responsible for the
> belief that language has something to do with thought and
> self-consciousness.

So yeah, I agree with Damien's statement for humans: The rigorous
thoughts are in English because it's by hearing those thoughts that we
reason about them, remember them, and fill in the blanks. But there
could be a better way. Our future selves may call it the "linguistic
bottleneck" instead of "linguistic self-awareness".

--       Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

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