Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Evolutionary Linguists announce arrival of Skynet

In a recent book chapter, Loreto, Baronchelli & Puglisi (2010) summarise mathematical models of language games. They minimally define a system which will allow agents to reach shared linguistic categories which describe continuous stimuli (e.g. colour). New findings include a demonstration that the number of linguistic categories will stay low, regardless of the resolution of the agents' 'eyes'. However, I was particularly struck by the last paragraph, which appears to be ominously more 60s science-fiction than the mathematical jargon:
"Finally it is important to mention that in the last few years a potentially very interesting experimental platform appeared: the World Wide Web. Though only a few years old, the growth of the Web and its effect on the society have been astonishing ..."
What is this wondrous thing called the World Wide Web? Why has nobody told me about it?

Yes, as far as I can tell, this was published last month. Then, the really spooky Skynet stuff:
"Innovation has widened the possibilities for communication. Social media like blogs, wikis, and social bookmarking tools allow the immediacy of conversation, with unprecedented levels of communication speed and community size. In this perspective the web is acquiring the status of a platform for social computing, able to coordinate and exploit the cognitive abilities of the users for a given task."
We are enslaved by this terrible self-organising system! But what task is it trying to complete? Surely nothing good. It seems that Evolutionary Linguists just can't help imagining dystopian futures.

Vittorio Loreto;, Andrea Baronchelli;, & Andrea Puglisi (2009). Mathematical Modeling of Language Games Evolution of Communication and Language in Embodied Agents, 263-281

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