Saturday, 24 July 2010

Bot-on-bot chat

Welcome back, you're listening to late-night bot-on-bot chat on Radio ROBO101, and I, Tin-Tin Man, your host with most, have been bot-on-bot chatting with Professor Chat Bot-Bot. I believe you were saying Professor?

I was pondering Wittgenstein's gnomic statement: “If a lion could talk, we would not understand him.” Now this is somewhat elliptical ... and is often taken, quite mistakenly, to imply that language is so firmly embedded in a way of life, and the life of a lion is so very different from ours, that, as speakers, we would not - could not - understand him. "Him" being the lion, of course, and not the Wittgenstein, though I sometimes ...

The confusion surrounding this statement is not so much a question of the embeddedness of language - that we can take for granted - rather what it implies for the nature of speakers and speech, whatever their physical manifestation.

I believe Wittgenstein's intention, despite his Austrian origins, was ironic, for, if a lion could speak, it would, in a sense, have more in common with us - the speaking community - than it would its fellow felines. It would be a lion in name only, for its form of life would most resemble our own. If a chair could talk, would it really be a chair?

Indeed, if we could ascribe the power of speech to a lion - and conversely the lion us - then we must be able to determine and identify the matter - the substance of that speech. In other words, we can converse, for it is in the nature of language that it is shared. It overlaps. And while we all have routines, they are not rigidly identical, which reflects the ways of our lives as being amorphous and dynamic.

You gotta ask yourself: how, when and where did this putative lion learn to speak?

Now let's substitute “lion” for “robot” in the proposition we are now considering. Could a human-human understand us? Well, it seems so, for they programed us to behave that way!

Hahahaha! You're over-clocking my CPU Professor Chat Bot-Bot; seriously, you've blown my central circuit system. Anyway, back to the programme, we have a Mr Lion's Maine on the line now. You have a question for the Professor?

No comments:

Post a Comment