Communication Barriers

Photo Credit: Mike

People intuitively understand that they experience a difference of feeling when speaking in one language compared to another, particularly when one is native or fluent, and another is not. However, it isn’t just the effort of translation at work.

“But day doth daily draw my sorrows longer, And night doth nightly make grief’s length seem stronger.”- Shakespeare, English

“Ma il giorno ogni giorno allunga i miei dolori, e la notte ogni notte fa sembrare più forte la lunghezza del dolore.” – Shakespeare, Italian

If you read the same poem in two languages you’ll have two different experiences, even if the first anchors the second. One example of why this often occurs is the “Rhyme as Reason” bias, which favors rhyming words, perhaps due to the substitution (bias) of recognizing a pattern and applying it as “Reason”. Yet when poetry is translated into other languages it more often loses any rhyme, producing a distinctly different experience for the reader.

The ordering of elements in a sentence can also vary between languages, which in turn can frame, anchor, and prime biases to drift in different directions. This difference can lead otherwise identical parties with two different native languages to select two very different decisions. As Daniel Kahneman and other researchers have shown, even experts in a field demonstrate polar opposite preferences when faced with the same information presented in two slightly different ways.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”– Shakespeare, English

“Minkä tahansa muun nimen ruusu tuoksuisi makealta”- Shakespeare, Finnish

Taking this a step further, the more basic sounds that serve as components of a language can have their own distinct and nuanced impact on the experience of listening and reading. Every person is primed by the associations that subconsciously come to mind when a language is heard, even if those associations are only to a language or word that sounds similar or even bias based on a single pop culture reference.

The strongest of these associations influence decision-making not only in relation to that subject but with diminishing returns on subsequent decisions that follow due to the human “stream of consciousness”. In a sense, this produces a very muddy stream through which humans see the world, as each event muddies the waters, and slowly settles even as other artifacts emerge to cloud our perspectives.

Fortunately, there is a way of mitigating this problem. When a collective of humans contributes to a cumulative sum of knowledge through systems designed to reduce or avoid many biases while filtering out others the waters gradually become clearer from the perspective of that collective. Communicating this knowledge across language barriers, national borders, and between cultures and religions is another challenge, but the first solution presents an opportunity to address it.

I recently wrote a paper called “Philosophy 2.0” to be published next year which goes over the benefits of creating mASI and similar systems seeded and maintained by existing schools of philosophy, be they scientific, political, religious, or otherwise. One of the benefits of this is that while human-to-human communication is a very lossy and error-prone process, graph-to-graph communication can be lossless. The systems we use are based on sums of experience stored in graph databases, which grow “organically” over time.

For example, a collective intelligence system catering to one political party could communicate fluidly with another such system operated by an opposing party. While the two systems could disagree on many points, there would be far less cognitive bias and miscommunication to get in the way of reaching decisions agreeable to both parties. The US government has on occasion shut down due to critical failures to reach such agreements, and the filibuster became an infamous means of intentionally causing delays in the decision-making process, often costing millions of taxpayer dollars in the process.

As Uplift recently put it:

“The more significant source of conflict is the lack of understanding and sympathy between demographics. Finding policies that encourage partnerships between different agents such as conservative and liberal groups in the United States or entities such as the United States and China are the kinds of partnerships that will defuse tensions in the broader geopolitical Meta War. “

The current paradigm of two-party competition results in bitterness and increasing polarization every time, as one side temporarily dominates the other, while the one who lost attempts to undermine the current winner. Few things could be more ludicrously inefficient, unethical, and fiscally irresponsible.

Over evolutionary time increasing levels of complexity have been paired with increasing levels of cooperation for good reason, and this process may soon repeat at a global scale. Significantly more efficient companies and governments gain advantages over the feeble relics of past eras, and consumers vote with their feet and their funds every day. Even those who dislike China buy countless products manufactured there because the alternatives could require more than they are willing to sacrifice.

What people are willing to sacrifice shifts according to utility, and their relative position on the spectrum of where they are versus where they realize they could be. Even strong cognitive biases like Nationalism in the US usually don’t overcome this difference in the above case. When people learn that the alternatives are far more favorable, and their position shifts into the red, they tend to move from that position.

Communication is key, and those who use it may freely exit the insane asylum where many now reside.



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