Random thoughts on language as information evolution. And technology and digital information.
The internet has provided a mobile scaffolding for digital information.
Why is the internet such a big deal? It allows us to transport and materialize information to our senses, to our mind. We take music, digitize it into a code, transport it across vast distances, and re-materialize it for our minds to consume.
Everything revolves around information. Information is composed of data. Data are bits of information. Sense organs and their appropriate external sensory inputs provide the mind with sense datum derived from our environment. Through sensory integration, our mind sythesizes these bits of data together which provides the mind with information it can use to make decisions. What information technology has allowed us to do is take that sense datum, preserve it in a code, and reproduce it at a later time.
Exposure to environmental stimulus produces sensory feeling on the body which leaves an impression in the mind, which we call memories. The repeated exposure to external stimuli (sensations) conditions our conscious experience— creates associations and habits of thought— that mold, shape and organize our perceptual framework. This framework is the psychology that manifests as our personality and character.
The first information technology was a product of natural evolution; it was a biological development: speech.
I speculate: our earliest ancestors communicated through noises and gestures, and received information via visual and auditory senses. The first language was purely semantics, pertaining to expressed meaning and feeling. Our ancestors made noises (intentional or not) that represented the feelings that were generated within a specific context, and others listening in associated that noise with an interaction or situation with an object or event within that context. When the noise was recalled, it preserved the original intention of the expressed noise, and represented the context, or meaning.
Over time, habits developed through routine associations. This creates a structure due to the path dependent nature of habits to become rigid as they strengthen and deepen through use. The cross application of these structures allowed patterns to emerge. That is, the synthesis of these habits of expressive noise, or communication, produced complex patterns to emerge, much in the same way a triangle placed on top of an inverse triangle creates a hexagram (Jewish star).
For instance, I habitually reference the word “ball” when identifying a “spherical object” in a specific context, so that it becomes mere truth that the word is the thing in reference. Likewise I reference the word “fly” when identifying objects “suspended in air”. These words and the associated meanings gain a rigid structure as a result of repetitive usage. When the independent structures are placed together and synthesized, they create new meanings, such as “flying ball”. Overtime most language structures have grown manifestly more grammatical and less semantical. This is especially the case with English. However, Latin is highly inflected, using inflections to denote grammatical categories, and provides no necessary structure for syntactical word order.
The only metaphor for “data” we have available to us is: the individuated or particular (indexed) feelings generated by sensory inputs. Data is sensory inputs that have been indexed by some particular. Language allows us to use words to index phenomenon. For example: It’s “cold”, so the feeling of cold is noted and indexed with the word “cold”. While we can recall the word “cold” at a later time to denote the experience, all we have to compare it with is other feelings. To objectify it to a standard that becomes relatable to other individuals, we appeal to some external association, say crickets or a thermometer, and index the word “cold” to describe a number of chirps per minute or a number along a time line of degrees.
This is how I imagine language developing; or, more exactly, syntax and, more broadly, semantics. Language is the first form of “psychological” or “cognitive” information to appear in the world. Our ability to manipulate language allowed humans to create new possibilities, new worlds inside our minds and the minds of others, by recalling semantics and reformulating their associations.
So information. Language developed.
Language was the first code— it functioned to preserve information about “reality”. This information has always contained a subjective perspective that established a relationship among the particulars constituting a person’s natural or social environment.
What is code? A code is a complex pattern of relationships.
Must all codes be sequential? No. Are most all codes sequential? I’m not sure, but I tend to think so. I know computer programming follows a basic sequence, but I’m not sure this is always the case. Do we think in sequences? Some people do. I don’t. I think spatially: visually and geometrically. I wonder if we can formulate a code that operates spatially? This will probably be the break through for artificial intelligence. Anyway.
The linguistic code was reinforced over time through habit: as the language was shared and repeated and more broadly used as a means of communication, it became convention.
The next stage of information evolution was writing.
After a language become normative, fully conventionalized and structured, it possesses a rigid, almost irreducible, character. The particulars of the language— the parts of speech and vocabulary— become universally recognized and accepted. When this stage occurs the language can become symbolized and later inscripted.
While spoken language occurs in sequences, it is not entirely sequential. This is because spoken word adapts to the response of the audience or interlocutor in order to modify the intended message and adapt according to the present, real-time gaps in their understanding. In this way spoken language is a living, active representation of meaning, feeling, and thought– that is, intended message.
Because written language necessarily occurs sequentially, it provides a logical framework that captures the relationship of cause and effect. This is good if step by step processes are being communicated, specifically for communicating natural phenomenon that accord to very predictable patterns or “laws”. The drawback is that it does not capture the essence or whole picture of what is being communicated. Additionally, because writing is static, it cannot adapt to gaps in the readers understanding.
Written language retains permanence and becomes “truth” due to the habituated or repetitive usage. The problem is that while the auditory information is preserved through associated symbols, the semantics are lost and become a relative host of dissimulated feelings devoid of proper context.
Poetry is the best way for transcending the constraints of written language. It abstracts relationships and meanings (associated feelings) using metaphors and analogies to conjure a feeling as its message. It is not subject to the same sequential constraints, per say, nor to the limitations or writing conventions of grammar and proper usage.
Pictures are a way to transcend the limitations of written language. But even then pictures cannot capture the context, specifically the social context that captures the relationships among agents and their subjective perspectives with the environment and social structure.
What is the key feature for communication? Mutual engagement. What is the key feature for language? Repetition.
It is only through repetition that language arises.
If a word is repeatedly used outside its appropriated context, the word looses its original intended meaning and gains a new meaning within the new context in which it is being reapplied or used. It becomes a cliche, a catch word, a buzz word, a reproduction of noises with distorted origins.
Language always involves two parties. There is no need to communicate to oneself. We do that already by feeling. That is how our body communicates with us.
Mankind has become architecture: the powerful and authoritative adorn man with meaning and value.
Does adequate understanding come from “repetition of words” or “repetition of experience”?
How can we “code” increasingly complex information? Such as the teleportation of material objects? We first need a code, then we need a transmitter to send vast quantities of information over a distance, finally we need a receiver that takes the proper materials and organizes them into their original proper complexity.
Real. Physical. Biological. :: Simulation. Mechanical. Analog. Abstract. Informational:: Dissimulation. Simulacra. Hyper-real:: Delusional.
Analog :: Digital.
Analog writing. Digital writing.
Analog Music. Digital music.
Analog relationships. Digital relationships.
Analog communities. Digital communities.
Analog life. Digital life.
Icons. Memes. Syndicated media. Copies. Duplication. Repetition.
What information can we abstract from our lived experience and recreate through a simulation?
Can abstractions of abstractions be made? And abstractions of them? Have they been made? If so, examples?
The ability to construct conceptual relationships through logic provides a structured code that can be communicated through language and without experience. However, what of the application of that code? Is there a limitation of identifying relevant context of code?