Words get in the way sometimes, and other times there aren’t enough. Linguistics is a fundamental aspect of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Machine learning requires words. What makes me wonder is how can we teach machines to learn to communicate when basic communication between two people can sometimes be problematic.
YouTube has volumes of videos (TedTalks, for example) on brain studies. This one is from Nature. It describes the map of the brain that respond to specific words.
What is language? It is a tool for communicating as one definition. When I studied computer science I had to learn programming languages, including machine language. Programming languages look like written English, and is a “higher” form (not better, just human looking) of language. It’s “higher”, because it sits further away from the native machine language which is made up of a series of 1s and 0s (ones and zeroes). Yes, like the background of blinking 1s and 0s in the rolling credits of “The Matrix”.
Imagine a virtual meeting. The participants are from different time zones, cultural backgrounds and speak varying native tongues. We speak English in the meeting and our purpose is to talk about a project. Twenty minutes into the meeting, the business leader messages me. “I can’t do this.” I know what the person is saying. As we listen to the presenter talk about the status and plans, we’re both trying hard to listen to what’s being said. But it’s really awful, because the sentences taste like sawdust. It’s completely dry and without meaning to us. What needs to be said is not being said.
He’s hiding behind words. It is like being taken for a ride and you want to get off now. I feel sad for him, but he hasn’t been listening and watching for clues and signals. It started weeks ago. The meeting prior to this one, the business leader was practically shouting (not literally, but he communicated clearly without raising his voice) what he needed to hear and see. The project is delayed. Everyone sees the days, hours and minutes marching closer to a deadline, and the budget dwindling down.
That’s one example, and something I’ve seen and experienced at other times before. I’ve been in a similar situation when I couldn’t reach the other person. In hindsight, I now recognize my mistake. I was stubborn. I could, at the time, only see the situation through my lenses. I wonder now why was I being so obstinate. It was immaturity on my part to butt heads with someone equally stubborn as me. It would’ve been better to compromise and acknowledge our differing views and methods of solving a problem. The game was a draw, a stalemate. We reset the board and started over. My head hurt harder, but I think I built resilience in the process and I am better for it.
Life is a kind of game. We play with each other and if we can play well together, we can have fun and create something profound. But if we can’t play together then we either disengage and go separate ways and find another playmate. The playmate we seek is someone who can speak our language with or without words – one who just gets you (or doesn’t). They can even try to “get you”, but sometimes our personal prejudices also block communication. Our “unconscious” behaviors block us from receiving the signals from the other person. Is it a signal that I don’t have my voicemail set up? Only that I have a preferred method of communicating – in person conversation or if it can wait then email or text me. This is a technology choice. There are so many options, and I choose not to use one of them. What I really mean by “unconscious” behavior of blocking could be a level of open mindedness to listen to another point of view. There’s listening and there’s being in agreement to what you hear. How much of what is heard resonates in you? How deeply does it jive with your vibe? How open is your heart?
Why do I want to communicate? What’s my purpose to share?
I searched for the 80/20 Rule in communication and found this one from a sales perspective.
The most important principle of active listening is to concentrate all your attention and energy on the task of listening to and understanding what is being said to you. The 80/20 rule of active listening says that in any sales conversation the sales rep should spend 80% of the time listening and only 20% of the time talking. In the vast majority of cases, the customer doesn’t want to know what you think, he wants to tell you what he thinks, how he feels and what he needs.https://www.bakercommunications.com/newsletter/articles/sales120108.htm
In a business environment, I communicate to sell an idea, to get a “buy in”, so both parties can agree to move forward or change as needed, but stay in partnership.
I’m daunted in my creative writing project to tell a story in play form. Mostly it’s the dialogue that stumps me. How can I make the dialogue authentic and interesting? Plain, simple and honest communication is truthful. Maybe it’s hard to get to the truth, because of the filters we have that shades the truth from shining through. The filters of protection and guise that cast the shadows and lights – the tragedies and comedies of being human. When I write, I watch for what it is I’m running away from (like, Oooo that one hurts, not ready to touch that one yet).
Can a machine touch someone’s heart? Maybe, one day. Sadly, sometimes, I wonder if talking with a machine is all that a person has to keep them from being lonely.
Music is also a form of language, and one I consider to be truly powerful, because music can move people. It touches the heart. I think this is the purpose of communication, with or without words.