Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The obsolescence of words

Words remain a crucial technology for coordinating our efforts, for accomplishing cooperative tasks -- from preparing a meal to launching a rocket ship. And words remain a crucial medium through which we perform less tangible (but equally valuable) activities -- learning, imbibing the wisdom and creativity of the ages, sharing experiences, expressing heartfelt feelings and thoughts, getting to know each other. Even solitary activities like thinking, planning, organizing, and doing chores, involve words.

And yet, along with the ubiquity and extreme importance of words, there's something else about them that we ought to appreciate: They're potentially on the verge of obsolescence.

At this moment words remain a crucial part of life in multitudinous ways because we don't yet possess communication systems that can replace them. But we have the ability to create such systems. It's entirely possible for us to create, in fairly short order, media that will:
  • do many or most of the jobs that words do, and
  • do those jobs much more effectively.
The salient point to appreciate here is that the effort and resources required to create these new systems are minuscule, compared to the benefits that will result. Improved information systems, improved modes of expression and communication, facilitate creative and imaginative growth and progress. And internal, intangible aspects of growth and progress are directly linked to external, tangible aspects. Constructing post-verbal communication systems is a vital part of achieving vastly greater prosperity, i.e., material abundance for everyone.


Josh Maurice said...

I would emphasize that I really do appreciate how enormously useful written and spoken words have been. Using the Internet, going to bookstores and libraries, I see billions of words that I'd love to read - I'd love to learn all that info - it would be so useful and enjoyable. This motivates me to try to create new ways of communicating that would make it feasible to imbibe, on reasonable timescales, more of the huge amounts of info that's out there. I think there's really something to the saying, "a picture's worth a thousand words." If we can explore all that information through pictures instead of words, then maybe we can learn at least a thousand times faster.
(Text of this comment originally posted April 3:

Josh Maurice said...

Edited original post: added "expressing heartfelt feelings and thoughts,"