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Monday, July 18, 2016

Is Language "Analog"?

Is Language "Analog"?

Mark Liberman | July 17, 2016

David Golumbia's 2009 book The Cultural Logic of Computation argues that "the current vogue for computation" covertly revives an "old belief system — that something like rational calculation might account for every part of the material world, and especially the social and mental worlds". Golumbia believes that this is a bad thing.
[...] From his introductory chapter:

Human nature is highly malleable; the ability to affect what humans are and how they interact with their environment is one of my main concerns here, specifically along the lines that computerization of the world encourages computerization of human beings. There are nevertheless a set of capacities and concerns that characterize what we mean by human being: human beings typically have the capacity to think; they have the capacity to use one or more (human) languages; they define themselves in social relationship to each other; and they engage in political behavior. These concerns correspond roughly to the chapters that follow. In each case, a rough approximation of my thesis might be that most of the phenomena in each sphere, even if in part characterizable  in computational terms, are nevertheless analog in nature. They are gradable and fuzzy; they are rarely if ever exact, even if they can achieve exactness. The brain is analog; languages are analog; society and politics are analog. Such reasoning applies not merely to what we call the "human species" but to much of what we take to be life itself, […]


<more at; related articles and links: (Is the human brain analog or digital? 2011-2015) and (The Cultural Logic of Computation. 2009)>

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