What Will Come After Language?
A few weeks ago now I gave a talk, via Skype from Hong Kong, at the Humanity+ San Francisco conference…. Here are some notes I wrote before the talk, basically summarizing what I said in the talk (though of course, in the talk I ended up phrasing many things a bit differently…).
My suggestion is simple but radical: In the future, the distinction between linguistic utterances and minds is going to dissolve.
In the not too distant future, a linguistic utterance is simply going to be a MIND with a particular sort of cognitive focus and bias.
I came up with this idea in the course of my work on the OpenCog AI system. OpenCog is an open-source software system that a number of us are building, with the goal of eventually turning it into an artificial general intelligence system with capability at the human level and beyond. We’re using it to control intelligent video game characters, and next year we’ll be working with David Hanson to use it to control humanoid robots.
What happens when two OpenCog systems want to communicate with each other? They don’t need to communicate using words and sentences and so forth. They can just exchange chunks of mind directly. They can exchange semantic graphs — networks of nodes and links, whose labels and whose patterns of connectivity represent ideas.
But you can’t just take a chunk of one guy’s mind, and stick it into another guy’s mind. When you’re merging a semantic graph from one mind, into another mind, some translation is required — because different minds will tend to organize knowledge differently. There are various ways to handle this.
One way is to create a sort of “standard reference mind” — so that, when mind A wants to communicate with mind B, it first expresses its idiosyncratic concepts in terms of the concepts of the standard reference mind. This is a scheme I invented in the late 1990s — I called it “Psy-nese.” A standard reference mind is sort of like a language, but without so much mess. It doesn’t require thoughts to be linearized into sequences of symbols. It just standardizes the nodes and links in semantic graphs used for communication.
But Psynese is a fairly blunt instrument. Wouldn’t it be better if a semantic graph created by mind A, had the savvy to figure out how to translate itself into a form comprehensible by mind B? What if a linguistic utterance contained, not only a set of ideas created by the sender, but the cognitive capability to morph itself into a form comprehensible by the recipient? This is weird relative to how language currently works, but it’s a perfectly sensible design pattern…
That’s my best guess at what comes after language. Impromptu minds, synthesized on the fly, with the goals of translating particular networks of thought into the internal languages of various recipients.
If I really stretch my brain, I can dimly imagine what such a system of thought and communication would be like. It would weave together a group of minds into an interesting kind of global brain. But we can’t foresee the particulars of what this kind of communication would lead to, any more than a bunch of cavemen could foresee Henry Miller, reddit or loop quantum gravity.
Finally, I’ll pose you one more question, which I’m not going to answer for you. How can we write about the future NOW, in a way that starts to move toward a future in which linguistic utterances and minds are the same thing?
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