Monday, August 30, 2010

Language and Technology


As we become a more and more advanced civilization, relying more heavily on computers can be both an aid and a detriment. In some cases they can do things much faster and better than we can, but when does the line occur where intuition takes over? How can we convey that idea of experimentation?




In this link provided a computer was able to decipher an ancient language called Ugaritic in a significantly shorter period of time than it was translated by a human, but only because it has a base line to model. What are your thoughts?

7 comments:

Carmell said...

I thought your observation that it would be difficult to convey experimentation, among other things, from within a system that is finite. Its limits are created by us. Who creates our limits? How do we know what they are if we reach them?

Ty G said...

This reminded me of another ancient language that we have never been able to decipher. I think what you posted was interesting and related well to the Rosetta Stone post I made a couple days ago.

I think it is interesting that a computer was able to decipher what the text said. However, a computer cannot find meaning - the computer had to translate the text into a language people could understand, thereby allowing humans to find meaning.

Newlin said...

Ty, What do you mean by "meaning." There is a lot to say about that, but for the sake of argument I will take the position that semantic content is only definable within a specific system of language whereby when an speaker is presented with some kind of syntactical stimulus, there are rules defining what an appropriate response is. "Meaning," perhaps is only having given a response which doesn't break the rules of what counts as an appropriate response, and nothing more. In this case, a computer could absolutely find "meaning." It would simply need to understand the rules of presentation, what does and does not count as an appropriate and well formed response.

Elder Roxas said...

Maybe, then, given Newlin's challenging of meaning-finding: maybe technology is something that relies on external stimuli and certain rules of presentation, or maybe function.

To take a slightly Foucauldian turn...

In an anthropological sense, a technology is more than just applied science or a useful tool - it's anything that human beings use to affect how we attempt to adapt to, affect, and control our surrounding environments. And there needs to be production value - technology must result in something of some kind of value.

Then is language itself the ultimate technology? Like an intangible, mercurial alloy or plasma that bends in functionality and usefulness to stimuli from human will...or human imagination? As technology, what is the production value of language?

In that case, then like any other technology, there are rules that language must follow...and yet rules of function (or even use) cannot easily apply to something as volatile as language...hence, perhaps, another example of language as the most dangerous of possessions...

Sorry...unfocused ramblings.

Scott Abbott said...

i'm picking up on the last comment: is language some sort of technology?

i think that is exactly what it is. if you look at the anne carson poem posted earlier, that's just what she is saying as well.

we invent language to do something. we invent a stone knife to do something.

homo erectus. homo sapiens. homo faber.

Newlin said...

I agree as well. Language is a kind of technology. Perhaps it is the ultimate techne, in the Greek sense, a craft/art/activity which plays a role in or is maybe even prior to every other kind of techne. Language, the Mother Techne.

Newlin said...

Back to meaning - there is no fixed meaning - only accepted rules of production of what counts as meaning in a particular context, and depending on the activity/techne/technology being performed/worked/used.