Words, Sentences, Knowledge and AI

Up until we began writing humanity never really progressed a whole lot. We passed things down from generation to generation in various ways like songs and stories, but it wasn’t until we established an effective system of writing that we really began to grow. There is an obvious equivalence here: the words we write are the collective knowledge of our civilization.

When we talk about artificial intelligence we are talking about some magical technology that will pick humanity up off it’s feet and start advancing us ever faster and faster, making us into virtual house cats living a luxurious existence floating around in magical flying palaces that the machines provide for us, right? Well that’s what I envision anyways. So isn’t AI going to have something to do with language and writing? How does AI use the knowledge we’ve gained?

Often times we get caught up in the difficulty of learning a new language and so we don’t ever really see the language itself for the obstacle that it really is. Language is the thing that stands between you and interesting facts that you might want to internalize.

Take these three languages for instance. This is the same thing said three different ways. You could go and do the same experiments to learn the same things and say them three different ways and the concepts would all end up in other peoples heads slightly different.

One of the many similarities between these languages is that the most common words will mean less than the most rare words. How often do you hear the word glucose or amino. You group all these rare words together and you’ve got honey. I could say this a little differently:

honey = [glucose, fructose, <vitamins>, <minerals>, <amino acids>]

… where I’ve made anything in <>’s a classification of some sort.

As I was looking around at the news this morning I came across an article about how a secret service agent had his radio, badge and gun stolen in broad daylight. The article also mentioned the model number of the radio, which I looked it up on google, curious what sort of encryption the secret service is using.


That word that somebody made up to describe something that had been created will probably appear the same no matter what language you say it in. It implies all sorts of facts that are available for you to utilize like “what companies do business with the U.S. government” or “what modulation standard do modern point-to-point communication systems employ?” based on what I know about the rest of the world. It would take some sort of recursive algorithm to look this stuff up and organize it, but you’re continually building a list of questions and answers that are associated with the word honey.

Artificial Intelligence isn’t going to ever actually be certain of anything until it knows that it has a complete knowledge of this. I won’t know what companies do business with the U.S. government completely until I’ve done more research. I probably already know that both the company that created that radio and the U.S. government would have that information, because I know it’s a corporation and I know what a corporation is. I also know that I could get an incomplete answer by searching through the complete body of media that I have access to (the internet).

Facts, words, subjects, nouns, categories, knowledge, punctuation, these are concepts we conjured up to describe the way that we process information and our collective writings, traditions, songs and everything else is the knowledge that we pass on to future generations. They’re the spindles, blocks and sectors of our civilizations hard drive. The knowledge was conceived in an experiment, not a transmission. The facts known to humanity at any given moment may only rest in one human’s mind, and if an artificial intelligence is ever going to know that it may have to perform an experiment first, or a simulation.

We can align ourselves and our society correctly in order to optimize this transmission of facts from generation to generation:

  1. Use the right words in our day-to-day conversations, don’t use the wrong words.
  2. Promote a culture that encourages interaction with other people.
  3. Share our problems and limitations more openly with each other.
  4. Empower our heroes who are making a difference.
  5. Advance the science of learning, goal setting and other essential skills.

Speaking of empowering our heroes, how do we make more Elon Musks and John Lasseters?

World’s First Reusable Rocket Booster Landing

One random thing that I also get from this is that it may be easier to learn a new language if you focus more on the underlying knowledge. What do you use your English writing skills for, reading Wikipedia? Try reading Wikipedia in Chinese looking for the important words and maybe those common filler words they use a lot will click into place easier.

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