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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2008-06-03 11:53
Subject: [miscellaneous] Random lunch break thoughts
Security: Public
Location:Nuevo Rancho Lake
Mood:weird
Music:house noises
Tags:culture, language, links
jimhines lobs a stinker — He asks if all fiction is fan fic.

And this is what's on my mind right now: One of the chestnuts of freshman philosophy is the question of whether intelligence an emergent property of sufficiently complex systems. In SF, we often posit the answer to be yes.

Is it already happening?

For example, do "market forces" within the financial markets represent a form of intelligence? There's a vast network of financial transactions and instruments which collectively generate trends and events out of individual control. A lot of work has been done on the predictive value of markets. (Note this definition of "intelligence" does not require self-awareness.)

Likewise, we talk about the evolution of languages, and their behavior and trends. Just like biological evolution, there is a casual temptation to look back and see linguistic change having been directed toward a goal. What if they are goal oriented?

Some events in linguistic history are very strange — the Great English Vowel Shift, for example. I could construct a paper tiger argument that says English is an apex predator language which uses the cultures and peoples who speak it to enable its further spread at the expense of other languages. Again, there trends and events outside of individual control.

'Nuff said. I have work to do.
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Rafe
User: etcet
Date: 2008-06-03 19:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm inclined to disagree; anthropomorphism != sentience

There was a squib on NPR's finance show a couple months ago, talking about the verbiage used to describe the market's (or individual stock's) performance on a daily basis on "Marketplace" - technically, all any stock's price did was go up, go down, or not change - but using more industry-specific, clever, or merely interesting descriptive verbs.

By doing so, market commentators are, intentionally or subconsciously, anthropomorphizing "the market" into an entity for the sake of casual comprehension.

Saying "the living ocean" doesn't make it a sentient or sapient organism, it's merely a highly complex system.
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cathschaffstump: upscale
User: cathschaffstump
Date: 2008-06-03 19:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:upscale
I could construct a paper tiger argument that says English is an apex predator language which uses the cultures and peoples who speak it to enable its further spread at the expense of other languages.

That might not be far off the mark, actually. :) I've been reading a lot about World Englishes this year.

Catherine
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jackwilliambell
User: jackwilliambell
Date: 2008-06-03 19:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
English doesn't just 'borrow' from other languages. It waylays them in dark alleys, beats them over the head, and goes through their pockets.

(Note: Japanese is just as bad, but somewhat less successful.)
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Steve
User: anton_p_nym
Date: 2008-06-03 23:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
[citation needed]

-- Steve keeps that link handy, for just such an emergency.
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jackwilliambell
User: jackwilliambell
Date: 2008-06-03 19:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
See Charlie Stross RE financial instruments with self-awareness. (Several places, most notably Accelerando.)

See William Gibson RE memes/fashion becoming a form of intelligence. (Last two novels, there but definitely a subtext.)

See Bruce Sterling RE governments and ad-hoc groupings of humans as quasi-intelligent entities. (Most notably Distraction.)
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Leah Bobet
User: leahbobet
Date: 2008-06-03 21:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I could construct a paper tiger argument that says English is an apex predator language which uses the cultures and peoples who speak it to enable its further spread at the expense of other languages.

Isn't that essentially the argument of Snow Crash?

(Also -- that would be an argument constructed in a vacuum. Language does not exist in a vacuum.)
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-06-03 23:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Why would the argument be constructed in a vacuum?
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Leah Bobet
User: leahbobet
Date: 2008-06-04 00:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Because (and granted, it's a what-if) it'd be the kind of argument that ignores all those other things that drive both language and history. Culture drives language change; politics drives language change; economics drives language change. The punctilious academic in me says that English as a sentient predator-meme language has a bit too much of the manifest-destiny vibe about it, and it's like saying the car goes because it's big and tough, without admitting the existence of the engine, pistons, tires, or gas. That's just not why.

Really, English is where it is because English-speaking nations had lawyers, guns, and money (the shit has hit the fan).

None of this, of course, has to do with fiction, and I am sure you already know most of it. *g*
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Bibbit: bridge crawl
User: bridget_coila
Date: 2008-06-04 05:37 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:bridge crawl
I'm going to throw in a thought here about the English-predator system idea...

Viruses are also often driven by things other than biology, and in fact the very biology of viruses changes in response to those other things.
Cultures affect viruses heavily- there are viruses which have adapted to spread differently among different populations when the population differences are not genetic, they are cultural. Economics and religion are other things that have been both affected by and affected viral patterns of behavior.

I think the idea of English as a virus-like meme is potentially valid...
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Leah Bobet
User: leahbobet
Date: 2008-06-04 17:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
How would it work in terms of non-speakers of the language, though? Because a great deal of the history of English depends on people coming across the ocean with their swords, having had dubious contact or no contact with speakers of whatever was English at the time, and taking over for good farmland.
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tetar
User: tetar
Date: 2008-06-03 22:38 (UTC)
Subject: Emergent Aspects As Intelligence & Fanfic: A Dangerous Dichotomy
All Fiction Is Fanfic: Discuss

Fan Fiction is derivative and tends toward the Mary Sue end of the spectrum

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Sue

Fiction uses existing tropes and topos in new, innovative ways and is creative in nature, showing readers something new or revealing in a new or surprising way insights into humanity, etc.

That's a major distinction I find useful. And yes, a lot of fanfic gets published as commercial, professional fiction.

As for Intelligence, it has free will. Emergent behaviors do not. Aggregate market forces, massed arrays of parallel computing power, or flocking birds do not intelligence make or display. It is our interpretation that projects attributes of intelligence upon what is, in analysis, merely a series of very simple interactions that accumulate the appearance of volition or will or self-determination, i.e. intelligence.

And self-awareness removed from intelligence is merely appearance. Again, interpretation. You can even build a heuristic expert system, one that learns, and still not have intelligence per se.

What ever the fuck that means in regards the Turing Test.

If you wish to argue against volition or free will, you can debate whether intelligence is possible or ever exists.

--Gene Stewart

--GS
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