Q: What is a fractal?
A: A fractal is a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be
subdivided into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a
reduced-size copy of the whole. Fractals are generally self-similar
and independent of scale.
There are many mathematical structures that are fractals; e.g. Sierpinski
triangle, Koch snowflake, Peano curve, Mandelbrot set, and Lorenz
attractor. Fractals also describe many real-world objects, such as clouds,
mountains, turbulence, and coastlines, that do not correspond to simple
We all have our own worlds and are simultaneously part of a larger. Every element in this universe follows this
pattern. A proton exists in a world with neutrons and electrons all having a unique identity. Concurrently, they also
exist as a part of an atom. The atom has its identity and yet is just a part of a molecule. The interesting thing is that
these different levels of identity have their own set of unique rules to govern them, as if they are each separate realities. These unique rules can be thought of as a language. When two atoms collide they are communicating information such as their velocity and mass to one another and this communication changes the information state of each atom, i.e. they change the the direction and speed at which they were traveling.
It is the goal of many modern physicists to harmonize all of these realities and sets of rules (quantum physics, Newtonian
physics, relativity, special relativity) into one Grand Unified Theory. To some, figuring this out would mean learning THE
secret of the universe, the answer to it all.
I like to use the following metaphor to clarify these ideas as they relate to communication between human beings. Imagine yourself a pinball, interacting with the board,
which signifies your world. All of the environmental elements on the table are other people. The paddles represent
fate/God/free-will, pick your favorite word. Strangely enough, all those environmental elements that you are bouncing around
and interacting with, people (You fall in love! Score 1,000,000 points!!) are actually pinballs on tables of their own
perception where you are the environmental element (think internal reality/mind vs external perception). People
are communicating with each other in a limited fashion while never sharing the same world. One simple thing
remains true, and that is if the people in this network are able to communicate with each other better, the network will
function more efficiently. Now just jump right into the ocean of trouble with me as we attempt a definition for God. God is
the macroscopic combination of fractalized microscopic cogs that drives our Universe. This idea lays the groundwork for the
true purpose of this writeup concerning the definition, use, and evolution of language.
Stephen Hawking in A Brief History Of Time starts with an anecdote:
A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a
public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the
sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the centre of a vast collection
of stars called our galaxy.
At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at
the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish.
The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant
The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is
the tortoise standing on?"
'You're very clever, young man, very clever,'
said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down."
Sure, science stands smugly confident in the face of the naïvete of the old lady, but Hawking went on to concede some
significance to her
simple wisdom. Evolution
has a tendency not only to conquer the 'less fit' species that came before, but also to incorporate certain systems that may
beneficial. Grab the goods and ditch the trash. Think of evolutionary systems, and not species of animals or plants. The
different, and it is in the former where this process is exhibited. Picture a human body. At one point in
history of the Universe, the atoms
that make up our body floated about in a system of their own. Now for the quick rundown (watch the millenia fly by!) : atoms
molecules from simple life, and progress to even greater organizations of life, with more self-sustaining functions. However
and now has brought us to the human organism, comprised of unique and specialized organs and tissues all master-minded by a
brain. The unexpected benefit / curse of this evolutionary system would of course be consciousness. And
now that we have the paltry science
out of the way, let us proceed to
the delicious irony.
Lan"guage (?), n. (OE. langage, F. langage, fr. L. lingua the tongue, hence speech, language; akin to E. tongue. See
Tongue, cf. Lingual.)
6. The suggestion, by objects, actions, or conditions, of ideas associated therewith; as, the language of
There was . . . language in their very gesture. Shak.
Take a walk outside and take a deep breath. Take a look around and notice how the trees aren't desperately reaching to tear
Notice also how the birds cohabitate and even sing eachother awake. Sure, there is a constant cycle of predation and some
violent acts in
nature, but it is all so well communicated, even between species, climates and geographies, that a sustainable, elegant
quite perfectly for millenia, and then; Enter Man : stage left.
The tendency for equilibrium just isn't within us. We have these supercomputers residing in our skulls that can create
abstract forms. Such a
powerful system is stifled by a limited connection to the other supercomputers locked away in their skulls. In response, to
bridge this gap, we evolved to invent language. The
spoken word is
good, and quite social, but the written word provides the permanence we need to evolve our systems of communication
consciously, from one generation to the next. In a fashion we have found a way to communicate not only directly to one
another, but through time, albeit in only one direction. Humanity is the only form of life to expressly direct our own
evolution and not simply rely on nature's slow process. Some humans become
erratic in their
attempts to communicate; to self-express. Music, art, revolution, religion and science blossom and die in cycles. The
process of evolution is to try every avenue possible as most will end up as dead ends, but conversely, the right way only
needs to be found once.
This Universe developed its own set of laws for governing communication, or interaaction, soon after the Big
Bang. Life as a system got instinct as its set of laws that govern interactions among the various organisms. At this stage
of the game, humans have invented a myriad of languages in an effort to increase the capacity and quality of communication. I
am not referring to the languages of different lands (Spanish, French, Japanese, etc.) but languages such as music, body
language, the written word, the spoken word. It seems that with all of these options available for communication, especially
with the noosphere of interacting intelligences that is the internet, that humans have it all figured out. What then of
this lingering sense of tragedy, the
ineffable sense of loneliness that no person can ever shake? People often tend to mistake 'words' with 'language' in passing
conversation. After a little thought, it is obvious that the
spoken word are only types of language. In fact, language has one definition as a system by which we organize
all of our
thoughts. The goal of communication then is to be able to express that one system of thought to another entity. It is said
often enough that no two people are alike, and I sincerely hope
doesn't refer solely to physical appearance alone. No two people think exactly the same. That being said, each
has their own system
for organizing their thoughts. Some use pictures and emotions; others have logical libraries of facts while still others
on color and music. Everyone has their own created language in their head. The first wonder is that we are able to translate
language. The second is that we are able to communicate this translation to another individual. But of course,
we realize that it is never, ever
entirely accurate, or even perfectly received and understood by another entity. We are always striving for more perfection in
our language, our self-expression, if only to experience a greater
A creation of perfect language would have many consequences. Saying three little powerful words: (if you had the
'I love you' would no longer rely on the receiver's memories and experiences to conjur up the full impact of your
the presence of a ubiquitous language, those three little words are guaranteed to issue forth a total understanding by both
parties. Powerful streams of tears would literally
drop the receiver to their knees. Negative words (I use the term 'words' here for the sake of a common understanding; who is
what form the next evolution of language will take?) like hate and WAR would be treaded on very
carefully. Just the simple idea that
every person would be imbued with the full import and devastation of war could arguably eliminate its practice.
This is all so very idealistic on paper, but the trick would be to avoid the hive-mind or the Orwellian 1984 vision of
Controlled language means controlled thought. This creation of a perfect language utopia could easily
fall into dystopia. The paradox must coexist for this 'perfect language' to be any benefit at all. The ability to communicate
perfectly with one another must also allow for individuality. Computers on a network
achieve this without a hitch. They have their
established protocols, and minus packet-loss or hardware failure, there is never any ambiguity as to what a
computer means when it is
sending a message to another computer. (For more information on ideas like this, follow the Vernor Vinge link below). A
one thing, but I don't think that TCP/IP is going to be the answer for the human mind. Telepathy is closer but I still
it is missing either some vital data or a very important question. This author knows neither the question nor the answer,
possibilities are enough to keep me musing for the rest of a short lifetime.
A Few Avenues for Further Exploration
"Language is living when it is ostensibly dead. Words in a poem, an essay, a love letter, were given birth in a dialogue.
mind, they are
akin to the terminal moraine that a glacier leaves, or better, the way tree branches wave in the wind."
Vernor Vinge on the Singularity
"The post-Singularity world will involve extremely high-bandwidth networking. A central feature of strongly superhuman
will likely be
their ability to communicate at variable bandwidths, including ones far higher than speech or written messages. What happens
pieces of ego
can be copied and merged, when the size of a selfawareness can grow or shrink to fit the nature of the problems under
essential features of strong superhumanity and the Singularity. Thinking about them, one begins to feel how essentially
and different the
Post-Human era will be -- _no matter how cleverly and benignly it is brought to be_."
The Society of Mind by Marvin Minsky
Outlines how the mind may function as a large number of 'dumb' operators that perform simple tasks. It is only through their
that we get human-intelligence as we know it today.
It's possible to imagine a virtual reality that was driven by a speech-operated synthesizer where the various parts of
adjectives, modifiers, subjects and objects were interpreted by the cybernetic environment as topological manifolds of
shapes so that
speech would then generate a visibly beheld topology. And its possible to imagine a future world where in setting up marriage
contracts or in
negotiating corporate takeovers, in areas where clear communication, clear expression of intentionality was very important,
actually go into the virtual reality to use the visible language because its capacity for conveying intent would be much