mellowtigger: (mst3k)
Arrival 2016 movie posterI've mentioned time and again my desire to have a visual language without sequential time. "Arrival" demonstrated this concept beautifully. It's a new favorite movie of mine.

The movie is rated quite well at Rotten Tomatoes (currently at 94%), so hopefully other audiences will appreciate it as much as I did.  And not fall asleep and snore like an old man did in the theater today.

What if learning to communicate with aliens required more than just assembling a new dictionary?  What if it required a whole new way of experiencing yourself?  As I've written in earlier posts, what if some humans don't have a knack for serializing their thoughts, and we've relegated them to the status of mental idiots, but we really need to develop a new form of communication?

This movie briefly offers a glimpse into the possibility that serial-thinking humans could be the underdeveloped minds in galactic society, and aliens would need to offer us metaphorical crutches and remedial lessons in language so we could communicate together efficiently.  When they offer us a "weapon", what are we supposed to think?  Metaphor is a multi-edged wonder.

I like it.  Go see for yourself.
mellowtigger: (i told you so)
I've been talking for years about the need for a visual language for non-verbal autistics.  I learned today via this 15-minute TED talk that someone recently created one.  It's called FreeSpeech.

I disagree with his opinion early in the presentation that autistics have trouble with language because of its metaphorical content.  That issue can also occur, but I reiterate my claim that language difficulties stem from problems in synchronizing thoughts across the time periods needed to manufacture vocabulary and syntax.  A non-sequential grammar, by my thinking, removes the time constraint thereby allowing greater flexibility in assembling strands of connected ideas in any order convenient to the thinker.  He nearly touches on this idea later in his presentation when he discusses serializing thought into verbal language.

Regardless, I am glad to see that my own self-examination yields ideas that find external justification.  I wish I could've helped in creating that project.  I'll settle for pointing to my old posts on the topic.  I'm happy that I was on the right track, and a useful product is now out in the world.
mellowtigger: (brain)
In 2004, I solicited help in exploring visual, non-sequential language for communication. I don't mean a gestured language like sign language, because it is also sequential. I mean a purely visual language such as the communication provided by the imagery within a painting. I even emailed a few language centers at different universities but without any success. I finally resorted to just leaving my thoughts on a webpage where it has sat unused for half of a decade already.

"Based on my experience at just being me, I have a suspicion that some autistics would benefit from a non-sequential language. I have to wonder if parsing thoughts into sequential meaning is just too difficult for some people, and perhaps that's why they remain mute. I have no objective evidence whatsoever for my theory, it is purely a personal musing."

Today I finally stumbled across some news that might support my idea.

"Their studies had shown that even during sleep, the brain does not actually switch off. Rather, the electrical activity of the brain cells switches over to spontaneous fluctuation. These fluctuations are coordinated across the two hemispheres of the brain such that each point on the left is synchronized with its corresponding point in the right hemisphere. In sleeping autistic toddlers, the fMRI scans showed lowered levels of synchronization between the left and right brain areas known to be involved in language and communication. This pattern was not seen either in children with normal development or in those with delayed language development who were not autistic. In fact, the researchers found that this synchronization was strongly tied to the autistic child's ability to communicate: The weaker the synchronization, the more severe were the symptoms of autism."

With failed synchronization, I would expect temporal relationships to be even harder to establish. I still insist that a non-sequential language could assist some autistics with communication. It would allow them to both receive and to generate information in any order or timescale. Typical grammar requires significant use of temporal planning to organize phrases and subject-verb relationships while waiting on the slow generation of mouth-sounds or hand-signs. Visual grammar would not require such cohesive planning. Instead, structure could slowly accumulate without any required sequence.

Without synchronization, there is only what I call "the long moment". Consciousness becomes the average of all the previous memories combined. Conversely, the present moment stretches to include great lengths of objective time. If you happen to be stuck in a happy moment, then life is bliss.  Background (trends of history and future) and foreground (present moment) offer little distinction. Single events blur in their specifics until they occur with enough regularity to establish their own kind of momentum. Only with regularity do thoughts acquire the mental weight to afford easy concentration. Irregularity (unpredictability) is a burst of unpleasant cacophony. Emotional understanding can't be achieved until fleeting emotions have been reviewed (relived) for long periods of time. Trees and sky are permanent features in such a world, but people are not. Viewed in the wrong time frame, human activity is terribly inconsistent.  Lived in the wrong time frame, a sort of consciousness is maintained only by deliberately ignoring the distracting mayflies (humans).

That's why I think a visual language is important. Someone could stare at a painting for days if necessary, absorbing the various pieces of communication continuously until enough signal has accumulated for understanding to finally occur.

I still want to create a visual language and try it out with a non-communicative autistic. I'm disappointed that I couldn't convince anyone at those language centers of the potential usefulness.
mellowtigger: (penguin coder)

I have suggested before that our language influences our thoughts, and that influence determines how we conceive the world, and that conception changes how we act in the world.

I noticed today a totally new way in which the influence of English language affected (negatively) the creation of a computer language. I already knew some Structured Query Language (SQL), but I'm taking a 3-day class this week in Microsoft SQL Server 2008's version of Transact-SQL. I noticed today that SQL syntax was badly influenced by one of the regrettable features of English syntax:

Adjectives precede Nouns.

I noticed the problem because of the Intellisense feature of the SQL Server management interface. As I type a new SQL command, the program determines context and shows me available choices that are appropriate within that point of the SQL command. The problem, unfortunately, is that SQL syntax puts the field names (adjectives) BEFORE the table names (nouns), so context can't yet be determined.

If we had more reasonable English syntax where nouns preceded adjectives (as in Spanish language), the SQL standard would have been created with the appropriate order for Intellisense to work well.


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