Literacy and Numeracy: Stone Axes and Bone Knives

stonetoolsboneknives

Ultimately, everything is metaphor, whether we relate a taste to a strawberry or a color to a sound.  I use the word synesthesis broadly to describe the mechanism in memory that makes this possible.  The more I read, the more I am discovering that the structure is relatively the same in most individuals, but the perceptual history of every individual shapes the content of this structure differently.

There is some research that shows identical twins when together take different paths, however separated identical twins take similar paths.  You can find this in the work of Steven Pinker.

What is known is multiple sensory cues are better than individual sensory cues.  A visual cue will have a synergistic effect in memory when accompanied by other sensory cues including what I call the “cognitive sense”.  This being the case, the classroom is a terrible environment for learning and it is generally better to be immersed and learning in an environment with as many real sensory cues as possible right from the start.  This is why immersion is regarded as the best way to learn language although there are some caveats.

Steven Pinker has found that restricting language does limit people in their thinking, however in a generation the children build complete grammars with the language they are given and even coin new words as their experience dictates.  Language is a living, evolving thing within and across generations and cannot be contained in a 1984 fashion.  Nor is it wise to attempt to freeze a language you are studying, because it is a moving target.  Spelling guides, pronunciation keys, dictionaries, thesauruses, quotations, encyclopedias, news was never meant to police your thinking, but to equip you to think more broadly than your current abilities.  You weren’t meant to follow these books, you were meant to read to lead.  The books were meant to follow you.

Memory is infinitely flexible.  We are continually living a life where our mental data is accumulating and where we encounter crisis, climax and resolution or some variation mentally and we make the mental leap or stand on the cliff edge unable to evolve and cornered by our past.

Physics, Chemistry, Chronology, Geology, Psychology, Biology, Mathematics are the foundation stones of our sensory perception and our symbol systems and every one of these symbol systems evolves as we accomplish a phase change in any one due to an accumulation of exceptions until the system on which the symbols are based breaks down.  We call these phase change points “zero” and “infinity”, but zero and infinity are only place holders on a continuum be it linear, geometric, exponential or hyperbolic that has yet to show a limit of any kind.  All they mark are phase changes.

As Goedel demonstrated mathematically no system is complete, therefore no symbol system is complete.  There will always be phenomena that have yet to be represented and cannot be represented by the present system.  This is true for any language as well.  Listen to the phenomenal aural vocabulary of our youth as they imitate the sounds of their environment such as instruments and devices that our previous generation never heard.  Can we capture those “sound effects” with our current alphabet or icons?  I listen to children and youths communicating without uttering a single word in any language.  They communicate in the sounds and visual action of their home entertainment systems!  Anime is creating a world of children who speak a language their parents cannot fathom unless they are watching what their children watch.

And don’t be surprised to find children are no less intelligent than we were.  They don’t need the literacy we had to function in their environment quite effectively.  Measures of literacy and numeracy are irrelevant justifications for perpetuating an obsolete educational system.  The problem isn’t your children, it’s your educators.  Your children will define what communication will be in the future and we have to learn their lingua, not teach them ours.  Educators refusing to make the leap are, as Elliot said, “hollow men”.  Our children’s communication tools and cognitive abilities are in many ways superior to the cognitive tricks we use to think literally and mathematically with alphabets and numbers.  And that is all they are, a bag of tricks hammered into us for over twelve years.  Our literacy and numeracy tools are like stone axes and bone knives compared to what our children are using now.  Children can compose in video, audio, events, graphics, text, gesture and digits faster than we ever could read, rite and rithmatic with our pencils.  What makes our technology so exceptional or even worth preserving?  Are you still using a stone axe?

Welcome to the world of Marshall McLuhan.  Make the leap and learn the new media.  Let your children get on with computing.

The next time your child gets poor results on a literacy or numeracy test, tell the teachers to get their shit together and teach new media or find another job.

Love your children not your herd teachers.

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DemocraNet: Scale-free CPUs, HFGW Networks, Associational DBMSs, Iconic Languages, AlwaysOns and Laypeople

fractal

I came across this article http://tinyurl.com/58envr in Infosthetics.com regarding a medical iconic language. This lead me to think about iconic languages in general.

What would happen if we developed non-text languages where icons were not just “terms” but were used as “definitions” as well?

Consider having:

Iconic vocabularies.
Iconic grammars.
Iconic syntax.
Iconic linguistics.
Iconic dictionaries.
Iconic thesaurii.
Iconic wikis.
Iconic semiotics.
Iconic animation.
Iconic context.
Iconic databases.
Iconic functions.
Iconic organization.
Iconic networks.
Iconic events.
Iconic fonts.
Iconic classics.
Iconic metrics.
Iconic audio.
Iconic video.
Iconic mechanio (pressure)
Iconic olfio (smell)
Iconic gustio (taste)
Iconic thermio (heat)
Iconic nocio (pain)
Iconic equilibrio (balance and acceleration)
Iconic proprio (body position)

Such languages already exist. Chinese Hanyu for example. But what if a new global iconic language were developed?

In my reading I am discovering that even words are treated by our minds iconically as symbolic clusters. If the first and last letter of a word is correct the remaining letters in the word can be in any order. In fact, we do the same things with words themselves. We create word clusters and shuffle them around to create sentences. I think language does not have the formula Chomsky came up with using random sets of words arranged syntactically. Words are symbols and sentence fragments are symbols that we connect together. We do the same thing with lists which are basically paragraph fragments. All these fragments are are arranged according to the rules of a scale-free network not a hard wired linguistic structure. I think that would shake Steven Pinker up.

The thing that is necessary to point out is literacy and numeracy does not make us any more or less intelligent. It is a symbolic system like any other that trains us to think in certain ways to process language and quantities. Whatever we do we are simply learning another, perhaps more efficient way of processing symbols representative of reality. Plato thought that literacy was dumbing down his students because they did not memorize and meditate on what they learned, choosing to write it down and put it on the shelf instead. Are our children any different if they choose to let computers deal with the mechanical aspect of literacy and numeracy so they can concentrate on higher order operations? Do we agonize over our children being unable to weave cloth and tailor clothing?

If Marshall McLuhan is right, we are not past the point where we are pumping old media through the new internet media pipe. Text will always be with us, I think because it is just too darned useful. But we will utilize it differently as we become able to record, replay, produce, publish, communicate and collaborate using non-textual, non-numeric media and move beyond linear and tabular networks and into netular scale-free networks.

Something that occurred to me about phonetic language like English and syllabic language like Arabic versus iconic language like Hanyu Chinese is a phonetic or syllabic language enable you to encode or decode words according to their sound and store and retrieve them based on a simple index. Hanyu on the other hand provides no association between code and sound. You are dependent on the person you hear the word from to provide the association making coding and decoding author dependent. Iconic storage and retrieval indexes are not always obvious either although they do exist based on the subordinate symbols from which words are composed. The internet poses the remedy to this by enabling the automation of the association between sound and icon and definition.

It seems to me that iconic languages as a technology are undergoing a major evolutionary change that could not be achieved without the internet.

Computing is going through an interesting process:

Note: PL means programming language

Nodular Computer: Mainframe: Priesthoods operate
Nodular Network: ARPANET: Priesthoods connect
Nodular Data: Variable: Noun: Priesthoods Query
Nodular Language: Variable PL: Assembler: Priesthoods Manipulate
Nodular Communication: Variable Packet: TCP/IP Priesthoods Communicate
Nodular Schedule: Sequential Batch

Linear Computer: Minicomputer: Scribes operate
Linear Network: Ethernet: Scribes connect
Linear Data: String dbms: Verb: Scribes Query
Linear Language: String PL: 3GL: Scribes Manipulate
Linear Communication: String Packet: HTML: Scribes Communicate
Linear Schedule: Multi-Tasking

Tabular Computer: Microcomputer: Educated operate
Tabular Network: Internet: Educated communicate
Tabular Data: Relational dbms: Noun Set: Educated Query
Tabular Language: Relational PL: SQL: Educated Manipulate
Tabular Communication: Relation Packet: XML: Educated Communicate
Tabular Schedule: Multi-Threading

What is over the horizon and will accompany Iconic Languages I call “DemocraNet”

Netular Computer: Scale-free CPUs: Laypeople operate
Netular Network: High Frequency Gravity Wave Network: Laypeople communicate
Netular Data: Associational DBMS: Verb Set: Laypeople Query
Netular Language: Assocational PL: Iconic Language: Laypeople Manupulate
Netular Communication: Association Packet: XMPEGML: Laypeople Communicate
Netular Schedule: AlwaysOn

Scale-free CPUs will be solid state computers.  There will be no moving parts at all: Solid State Storage, no fans, no boards and a Network Processor.

High Frequency Gravity Wave Networks will make available bandwidth several factors larger.

Associational DBMSs will allow us to modify databases on the fly without concerns regarding referential integrity or normalization.

Iconic Language will Internationalize visual communication.

XMPEGML as new form of markup language for the standardization of iconic language exchange awaits development.

AlwaysOn would mean that you are always connected to democranet and always processing data.

Everything is in the mix to varying degrees, but each successive community is larger.

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Jared Diamond: Societal Collapse

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more about “Jared Diamond: System Collapse“, posted with vodpod

If you listen carefully to what Jared Diamond is saying in the TED video above, he is describing not a five part, but a six part power curve into a systemic singularity. This has been one of the core themes of discussion of this blog.  We all seem to be too close to our problems to see the commonality.  The interrogatives come into play here:

  1. Goals
  2. People
  3. Functions
  4. Forms
  5. Times
  6. Distances

Times and Distances being the basis on which the higher orders are built.

When we look at the recent economic “crisis” we see 300 trillion in currency circulating and roughly 1 trillion to 2 trillion shifting suddenly and unexpectedly.  We witnessed a systemic collapse, a singularity, a tipping point, a power curve, an exponential change, a phase transition or whatever label you want to call it.  These have been happening everywhere since Time and Distance began in different contexts and orders both in human and non-human systems.

What Jared Diamond and other alarmists are implying is that human society is now a system approaching its final singularity in this century on this planet.  We are implying that today we are experiencing a less than one percent crisis on a power curve into a singularity.  How many more iterations will the global system withstand?  Will humanity make the step into space successfully before we experience a global dark age?  How will the six or more factors in the power curve play out?

The truth to me appears to be that power curves whether they play out or not result in either a systemic climax or anti-climax followed by a systemic collapse.  Would it not be better if we experienced a systemic climax that led to us expanding into the solar system?

Systemic collapse seems to be the fashion of this generation.  Every generation looks with fascination at its own youth, maturition, reproduction and acceleration into mortality.  Some die early, some die late, but all die.  It is an irrevocable law of nature.  It is not about self-interest.  It is about what self-interest is defined as.

Related Posts:

Beyond the Singularity

Servitas and Libertas

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Core Vocabulary

In working with system frameworks and database systems I have often wondered about optimizing language in various domains which led to some serendipity.

The Dark Side

When most people talk about “core vocabulary” the first thing that pops into their heads is visions of George Orwell’s 1984 and Newspeak.  The objective of Newspeak was to reduce the range of thought of a population.  Fortunately, according to Steven Pinker, we are just not wired to make that possible.  However, I recently came across a very benevolent application of a core vocabulary that acts not as a constraint on speech, but as an access point to the entire English language for the severely disabled.

The Bright Side

Augmentative and Alternative Commmunication (AAC) has been the work of Prentke Romich Company since 1966.  They have developed “Unity”, a vocabulary access foundation, based on their research determining over 50% of English communication uses roughly 100 words.  This is not necessarily word frequency, but word utility.

Thousands of severely disabled people have had their inner worlds opened up to those around them through PRC’s products.  And there is now an AAC Institute that does a fine job of expressing the three primary requirements of Augmentative and Alternative Communicators:

  1. Saying exactly what they want to say
  2. Saying it as fast as they can
  3. Measurable results

Another non-profit ACCP Canada addresses further issues in the quality of life of AAC users.  Children’s Hospital in Boston also has a good site and program.

PRC is a leader among the companies addressing this challenge.  All these AAC Device Companies deserve applause for making vocabulary’s core and more available to the people who need it.