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To go where people are, to be where people think, to present what people desire and to give people what they want to have

2016-03-22 in Uncategorized

Yesterday’s blog post was in large part prodded by one of my friends who keeps saying I should publish my writing in print – as if that were more a sign of success than if I publish my own ideas on my own properties (and this friend is also not exactly fond of the „self-publishing“ idea in general, even though in my opinion that is perhaps one of the few ways one can be truly authentic).

Today’s blog post is inspired by another one of my very inspirational friends – and there is a similarity between the two threads insofar as they both touch upon the notion of property. Today, I want to address one of this friend’s issues with my thinking about „social media“ (though in fact I normally focus on retard media – which is not exactly the same thing, though the two predicates indeed often fit the same somewhat less than noble prize-winners 😉 ).

The sans-culottes 2.0 have an affinity to aggregate on the most popular websites … like Google or Facebook (or similar brand names that happen to be in fashion at the moment). They appear to feel that there is some sort of significance to large clusters of such congregations. Few consider such herd mentality questionable, many are more prone to pronounce „YAHOO!“ at the top of their lungs’ capacity. They are #1 because the numbers say so. In my humble opinion the numbers are meaningless, because each of them is no more valuable than a single grain of sand upon thousands of miles of beaches. Their numbers and statistical prowess are far less impressive than something as simple as the salt of the Earth.

Heavyweight monstrosities such as Google or Facebook (or the more or less similar dozens of unicorns behind them) are no more significant than the dead and gone monstrosities that have come before them, only to vanish from the face of the Earth. Their existence is ephemeral, they come and go with the whims of the loud and screaming mobs who trample this way today, that way tomorrow, and then back again the next day with yet more new signs and banners they daily swear by with ever-present enormous valour.

Less than a decade ago, Digg was a force to be reckoned with on both Wall Street and Main Street, not the biggest laughing stock of yesteryear. Random strings blowing in the wind do not bring about change, they merely dissipate and whither away. Even vaporware would be an overestimation of their non-lasting worth.

The crucial question is: What distinguishes properties with lasting value from such ephemeral brand names? Years ago, the masses would scream: „A dot com“ (meaning the domain name’s „ending“ or more precisely „top-level domain“, also often referred to by the abbreviation „TLD“). Well, how much did the dot com help Digg or Myspace? Right: Not one iota.

Having a property is not good enough. To be of lasting value, you need the right property. A valuable property is etched deep in the mind of its users – it is as irreplacable as their own mother, there is a kinship as deeply rooted as the sunrise which awakens their spirit every morning, day after day, throughout their lives.

Valuable names are usually not names per se. They are the words spoken time and again at breakfast, lunch and dinner alike.

Valuable words are few and far between. They are short and simple. A „home“ will be just as valuable decades from now as it is today. A „car“ was not always a gasoline-powered vehicle, nor will it remain so until the end of time – but it will probbably remain a valuable concept in many contexts.

Written language is a technology that has developed over more than just a few years, more than just a few decades, longer even than entire centuries. It has been at the very least many millennia since writing was first developed. There are quite a few four-letter words, but not an infinite number. In contrast: Google is probably just a passing phase.

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Trust in Individual People vs. Trust in Natural Language

2016-03-10 in Uncategorized

As I walked out of a store the other day (a discount supermarket, also commonly referred to as a „discounter“ – namely Aldi), I met a friend who was also walking out at the same time. After greeting each other, he noted how the recording they often play when opening or closing cashier aisles was very manipulative: When they open an aisle, the recording says „We are opening cashier number 3 for you“; But when they close an aisle, the recording says „Cashier number 4 is closing“.

When we meet someone we trust, we feel good because we quite rationally expect that they will be completely straightforward with us. I say rationally with a tinge of irony, because many of my friends working in the field of psychology often remind me that pretty much everyone lies to some degree – and they also add that „some degree“ probably works out to be several hundred times per day. So our expectation that our friends are being honest with us may indeed be more of a rationalization than anything else.

The example above (which is also from one of my „psychologist“ friends) clearly shows how the recording being used by the store was manipulative. When we ask a friend „how are you?“ – do we really want to know the truth? When they flash a fake smile and say they’re doing „great“, are we secretly happy that they didn’t rattle off a long list of things that might actually be going wrong in their lives right now?

I think such manipulation is actually quite common in interpersonal communication. People want to guard their freedom to do and think as they please, and many social conventions even provide a foundation for such little lies to be told day in and day out with virtually no repercussions at all. Compare this with clear-cut statements written out in plain English. A text written down must stand up over time; it is not as fleeting as the wind which dissipates the things we say out loud into thin air within a split second. The written word is unforgiving.

I have often written before (see e.g. http://remediary.com/2016/02/in-our-brains) that language is not owned by any individual entity, but rather that is a system distributed among a large number of members belonging to the linguistic community. In this way, it is similar to many technologies referred to as “open source technology” (such as “bitcoin”, “blockchain”, etc. — as also many other open source systems used across the web [e.g. “RSS”]). There is usually no single point of failure — i.e., no single / individual shill or con artist can manipulate such a distributed technology. Therefore, placing trust in natural language is a far more reliable information retrieval tactic than placing trust in individual people.

Note, however, that there are various levels or uses of language. A “full text” search engine (such as Google) is expected to match any text — regardless of which significance the text has in a written document. Although many people still expect that Google works this way, more informed specialists have long understood that this is simply not the case. In the early years, Google favored results in which the matching text was part of the title field of a document or in the “link texts” pointing to documents. Most reliable of all, of course, is the domain name itself — as only domain names are actually certified via the domain name registration process (Google also understands this now, which is why the company is becoming ever more heavily invested in domain names).

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Why Literacy Rates Still Remain So Low

2016-02-09 in Uncategorized

I often lament that the vast majority of people who are active online are still by and large illiterate. I may be right, I may be wrong, I may be somewhere in between – but why does it matter?

Perhaps it matters for many reasons, but my primary concern is that I feel personal whim – whether my own personal whim or someone else’s – should not be the judge of what is good or bad.

If more people were more literate, then the web would be more of a self-organizing system. People who write about advertising in sports might publish their ideas @ sports.com … people who share their ideas about the influence of money in politics might post these to a site like influence-of-money-in-politics.org … and so on. This already happens to a limited extent – let me describe it thusly: Over the past recent decades, the WWW-population has transitioned from being about 0.01% literate to maybe being somewhere around 0.1% literate… – and let me point out that some might rejoice at the exponential growth!

Why don’t I also rejoice?

Because there are a large number of quite influential agents who seem to be opposed to any increase in the level of literacy. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that a large portion of the literate population are indeed such influencers who seek to diminish the voice of the vast majority by
keeping them misinformed, uneducated, … basically: illiterate.

These influencers are strongly represented not only among the literate minority, but also among the world’s leading brand names … and are household brands with stronger stangleholds on the vast majority of masses living in quiet desparation than gigantic armies of grade school English teachers could ever muster. Did you mean you didn’t know that already?

Why am I not surprized?

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I neither Like nor Want to Talk About Me

2016-01-30 in Uncategorized

Over the past couple days, I have been reading more or less random blog posts… — I will get to why in a moment, but I first want to remark and point out very pointedly that I really don’t like talking about me, myself, my personal feelings, etc. I don’t consider myself to be very important in the “greater scheme” of things. I find it awkward and even a little painful to watch people write, behave, act or whatever like they are the center of the world … like everyone is just waiting to find out how they feel about something. I find that sort of information boring and disingenuous (I think that’s the word I want, but I’m really not sure).

OK, so why am I writing this here and now? Thanks for asking!! 😀

Try This at HomeImitate a spiritual master [05:30-13:30]. My spiritual master is St. Therese of Lisieux, and her spiritual memoir (if you’re curious) is Story of a Soul. I was surprised to hear the person that Elizabeth picked as her spiritual master! Hint: that person’s autobiography is called Audition. (Sorry, I promised to post a photo of my shrine to St. Therese, but I’m in Australia now, and I forgot to take the picture before I left town.)

The quote above is from a podacst hosted by Gretchen Rubin together with her sister Elizabeth Craft, which I have recently discovered and enjoy very much (even though it is supported by advertising 😉 ). I enjoyed the idea which they suggest to “try this at home” in this episode (#16), and so I want to share my ideas about this here. I will call my spiritual Master X, because I don’t want to divulge their identity here without their consent. I want to share my own ideas, but I don’t want to put this person in an “awkward” position.

The way I want to imitate their behavior is that I want to try to enjoy other people for how they are different than I am.

X is also a very special person for being humble — particularly in not claiming to be right. The humility of not being right is also something I aspire to — but it is also something I feel I am very far away from (I admire it more than I practise it — I am more prone to behaving like a “know-it-all”, an issue also discussed in Episode 20 of Gretchen + Elizabeth’s podcast [12:15-14:30]).

Here are some notes I’ve jotted down about my aspirations and shortcomings to be more humble and to cherish the way other people are different:

  • From early youth, I have been very fascinated with science, mathematical proofs, logic, etc.
  • Later, I also became fascinated with subjectivity, perspective, relativity, etc.
  • This is perhaps most apparent in my admiration of Ludwig Wittgensteins’s work — but Wittgenstein is *anything but* my spiritual master, because he seemed to be so fixated on his own beliefs, absolute truth, etc.
  • My spiritual master, instead, revels in wonder and amazement at how other people behave, think, live, etc. (i.e., differently)
  • In contrast, I am often frustrated when people seem illiterate, do not understand how science works, etc.

Well, so this is why I have been trying to read what other people write … in a sort of “maybe I should just pretend like other people are indeed literate” manner … and I have become increasingly disgusted with the way people seem to be focused on themselves. 😐

I don’t want to end on such a sour note. So I will now link to a little story about some other people who also inspire me — please go ahead and check out: “Opportunity makers with + for others — doing something smarter together for the greater good“. 🙂

 

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What’s App

2015-11-30 in Uncategorized

I typed „Uber“ into „Google“ and the #1 result on the first page of SERPs (SERP = „search engine results page“ 😉 ) — www.uber.com – was TL;DR (too long – don’t read). I couldn’t do very much on the page using the flip-phone (probably about 10 years old) I was using. I tried pressing the „sign up“ link.

I got a page which asked me to enter payment details. Nope – sorry, not doing that.

If Uber were actually about ride-sharing, then it would let me enter my location and hail a taxi right away. Payment could be solved if/when the taxi arrived. But it isn’t an app for hailing taxis – it’s an app for collecting data.

I also have a smartphone, but now that I know that Uber isn’t really very useful to me, I won’t visit their site, download their app or anything like that. I could have simply used Google to type in taxi (plus my location) in order to get a phone number and call a taxi using my phone… in less time!

I could also have tried to „cut to the chase“ by simply entering taxi.com into my rather feeble [0.1] browser… but it seems like some idiot is using that site as a brand name. 😐

Now you may say that I am not Uber’s target „consumer“ (and quite obviously also not taxi.com). OK, I get that. My point is: There are probably potentially billions of users I feel Uber ought to be targeting with a targeted website for very „low“ technology… – probably the vast majority of (potential) users worldwide are using a so-called „feature phone“ with little or no smarts besides a browser with very little memory.

I do have a smart phone – but I rarely use it. I prefer to type on a keyboard. Although my kids laugh at me, when I recently suggested to one of my daughters that she should send me SMS questions that I can simply answer with „yes“ or „no“ (Y/N), she said that would require her to write more. I noted that since she’s such an expert with her smart phone, she could type such questions easily. She chuckled, but I have yet to receive my first question. 😉

If I were to use my smart phone as my kids do, loading it up with dozens if not hundreds of apps, then I guess I would join the millennial consumer community (see „Millennial Media Landscape“ and also „Making + Breaking Connections + Relationships“)… and many companies could collect and share data about me with other companies and/or spy companies (the so-called „big data“ industry is all about industrial espinoage – just in case you didn’t know that already).

Most of these apps give their users the impression that things change on the web at breakneck speed – but that is simply yet another hoax created by people trying to profit from the gullibility of novice users. My hunch is that far more than 99% of the web doesn’t change at all from one day to the next. It is important to realize that the web is no longer something new… and that what novice users consider to be significant may very well actually be rather insignificant.

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Ownership

2015-04-30 in Uncategorized

This post is a preliminary sketch of a number of threads that could be interwoven… that could become a fabric, but as yet are still just loose threads. They are closely related to something I wrote the other day about language, technology and evolution (see “Neither Not at All Nor Completely“).

Ownership has some good characteristics, and some that are not so good — maybe even bad. In general, I think it is an illusion, a way of thinking that clouds our ability to think clear thoughts.

On the good side: If you believe in something, then you should own it — or maybe at least try to own it. There’s no need to say “So-and-so was great, and he said this”. I don’t care about So-and-so — what do you think? (see also “Subjectivity + Rationality“).

In a similar vein, people seek to “own their own narratives” — to write their own story, take their own paths, live their own lives. That is all good and fine, but this is one of the ways the illusion starts creeping in. For example: Without the path beneath your feet, how could you “take it”? You can’t. As I wrote a couple days ago (again, see “Neither Not at All Nor Completely“), you are also the other thing (in this example: the path)… — or because it is indeed not you, you can’t really own it.

In the case of language this could be the words I am using here and now: although I might be able to own the story or the narrative, the words I need to express them — to communicate the ideas to/with you — are shared (indeed: they would probably be worthless if they weren’t shared). This is to some degree a network effect — much like the path that connects two locations with each other, sharing a common concept is useful to both of us.

One other thread that also ties into this general space is involvement. In order for a shared, common space to be useful to a community, the members of the community need to be actively involved in maintaining the common technology. When people use a particular dialect or jargon, then the shared meaning is exclusive to those who are members of that particular community, and who actively maintain those concepts and thereby maintain those particular meanings and concepts within that community.

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Conversion Technology

2015-01-30 in Uncategorized

How do you convert men with a wimpy, limp dicks into a full hardon hungry-for-some-vagina animals? Mother nature has already been working on that technology for many millions of years, so I need not go into any details here.

Here I want to talk about the Internet, the World-Wide Web, and machine-readable information. But first let me give you a little piece of eye candy:

eye candy

Please go ahead and “mouse-over” that image to see the link to its source (it’s at this website: sunnyskyz.com). A machine cannot tell that this is a picture — or rather: two pictures — of three naked boys and three (pretty much) naked men… — but I presume you (whom I also presume to be human) can. The string “sunnyskyz” also means nothing to a machine — in contrast, for example, to the phrase “bright future”. The promise of the “computationally” meaningless (and “misspelled”) string may — in contrast — be very meaningful to the foolish and gullible human seeking some satisfaction this very moment.

During the 20th Century, a lot of marketing and advertising was about getting and converting the attention of foolish and gullible humans. In the 21st Century, we now also seek to convert another animal: the machine.

Today, many machines exist — and they are used by humans quite often to help make decisions. One very well-known machine goes by the name of “Google”. The Google machine comprises many things, including what is known as “an algorithm” but also the less well-known servers that suck up huge amounts of energy to keep the complete system running like a charm. Most people see Google as an empty box that wants to be filled with words, or brand names, or at least something… but behind that box is a whole bunch of technology, some of it being software, but also a significant amount being hardware.

Information scientists sometimes refer to such machines as if they were humans — for example: ascribing them the ability to read. The stuff such machines are considered to be able to read is called “machine-readable information”. This set of information is not forever fixed in time, but I can confidently say that it will probably remain limited to what is commonly referred to as “text” for the foreseeable future. The way most machines can tell the difference between the meaningless “sunnyskyz” and the meaningful “bright future” is by having humans describe the difference to them (for example: linguists like Noam Chomsky have described “rules” for what humans consider to be meaningful expressions, and these rules are then converted into “machine-readable code” — another type of text that machines can understand).

Different machines will apply different algorithms to “figure out” different answers to the same question. And increasingly, many of the most popular machines will even each individually give different answers to the same question posed by different users (aka humans), or even by the same user at different times or in different locations. Some of these machines even work together in groups — such as “Facebook” and “Instagram” (and a bunch of other related machines, including e.g. “internet.org”).

The crux of the human-computer-interface in the online space (i.e. the parts that are “connected to the internet”) is natural language (which has been “taught” to machines via hardware and software algorithms). Humans talk to machines — they “call them up” — by calling them by their names. They usually ask different machines different questions… — and the questions they tend to ask follows a similar semantic language. They might ask “Cars” about a car, they might ask “Hotels” about a hotel, and so on. At the moment, 9 out of 10 (or even more) humans ask only one machine — or perhaps only a couple machines — almost all of their questions … much in the same way as people in ancient times would ask an oracle, or maybe a religious leader, all of their most pressing questions of the moment.

Yet there are many signs on the horizon that this level of naiveté will not last very much longer. Competition among machines is increasing and will continue to increase, and machines will develop their own specialties — much in the same ways as smiths became know as “Smith”, and millers became “Miller” — and humans will increasingly go to the specialized machine that best suits their needs at any given time, in any given location, and according to the language humans have devised their machines in.

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