1380: "Manual for Civilization"

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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby Boilerplate » Thu Jun 12, 2014 10:30 pm UTC

da Doctah wrote:...the Voyager record album containing the music of Earth... contains "Johnny B Goode".


I believe it was "Roll Over Beethoven." Which thematically reinforces the notion of Rock and Roll being rebellious and an important transition. To a musician attuned to rhythm (especially a drummer) that song was a good example of the ambiguity of the swing beat (which was universal before) versus straight rock beat (which subsequently dominated).

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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby WriteBrainedJR » Fri Jun 13, 2014 1:29 am UTC

VapidFrobie wrote:
WriteBrainedJR wrote:The previous reference to Animorphs in xkcd was deleting them from a hard drive. This makes me wonder: does Randall love Animorphs, hate Animorphs, or hate that he loves Animorphs?


He was deleting his old fanfic, which was probably an embarrassingly bad attempt at giving the series an actual ending when he was just a kid.

You're probably right. Having four to six concussions that don't appear on your medical history is a lot like having a bad hard drive.

VapidFrobie wrote:I just finished the entire series off a couple weeks ago. I've temporarily dropped all my original writing projects to write 3k words worth of WMG on TVTropes for the series (mostly on how Tobias is a neurotic schizoid), and I'm 18k words into writing book #55 with plans to continue it to #59 and another Chronicles book because it just can not end the way it did. No. Just no. So much squandered potential. #54 was great as an epilogue novel, but the second half... You can't just randomly introduce a new villain out of nowhere with no foreshadowing solely to ambiguously kill off all your characters. Just no. I think Applegate was depressed at the time from stress, exhaustion, and having a baby while trying to keep on top of a book-per-month contract with Scholastic (for two different series, no less), and just wanted it all to be over. I dunno. It would certainly explain the tone of the whole endgame.

I love TVTropes, and I spend way more time on that website than is strictly necessary or even logical, but I had to google WMG. I had somehow never been on that part of the site before. I guess that stuff I had planned to do during dead week is not getting done. Speaking of WMG, I wonder why they use that acronym when there are two perfectly good pre-existing acronyms for the same thing: WUS (Wild Unfounded Speculation) and SWAG (Scientific Wild-Ass Guess). I especially like the second because it predates the current definition of "swag" by several decades and I have a predilection for acronymic military slang.


You make good points about the ending of Animorphs. You're the first person to convince me I shouldn't like it. For some reason, I still like it anyway.

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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby da Doctah » Fri Jun 13, 2014 5:01 am UTC

Boilerplate wrote:
da Doctah wrote:...the Voyager record album containing the music of Earth... contains "Johnny B Goode".


I believe it was "Roll Over Beethoven." Which thematically reinforces the notion of Rock and Roll being rebellious and an important transition. To a musician attuned to rhythm (especially a drummer) that song was a good example of the ambiguity of the swing beat (which was universal before) versus straight rock beat (which subsequently dominated).


Here's the playlist for the music (which follows a selection of greetings in various languages and assorted non-musical sounds:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contents_of_the_Voyager_Golden_Record#Music

Note that besides "Johnny B Goode", pieces performed by their composers include Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring", and "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" by Blind Willie Johnson.

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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby Steve the Pocket » Fri Jun 13, 2014 6:38 am UTC

I wonder how much money Randall would pledge to a crowdfunding campaign to adapt Animorphs into a movie series...

And I feel like there's a fundamental point being missed here: Is it even possible to teach a dead language by just feeding them a bunch of writing in it? The fact that we were totally lost on how to read Ancient Egyptian before we discovered the Rosetta Stone suggests that you can't. We learned our first language by listening to the people who raised us, constantly, and picking it up heuristically. Those of us who speak a second language learned it in the context of our first, by being told what translates to what. People who explore remote corners of the globe learn to communicate with the natives by interacting with them directly, for long stretches of time.

What we need is an archivable, one-way equivalent of that. A thorough series of videos, designed by a team of linguists, psychologists, and the people who make Sesame Street, and tested on actual people who have never encountered spoken [insert language here] before. I suggest we hurry, before our supply of such people runs out.
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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby WriteBrainedJR » Fri Jun 13, 2014 10:05 am UTC

Steve the Pocket wrote:I wonder how much money Randall would pledge to a crowdfunding campaign to adapt Animorphs into a movie series...

And I feel like there's a fundamental point being missed here: Is it even possible to teach a dead language by just feeding them a bunch of writing in it? The fact that we were totally lost on how to read Ancient Egyptian before we discovered the Rosetta Stone suggests that you can't. We learned our first language by listening to the people who raised us, constantly, and picking it up heuristically. Those of us who speak a second language learned it in the context of our first, by being told what translates to what. People who explore remote corners of the globe learn to communicate with the natives by interacting with them directly, for long stretches of time.

What we need is an archivable, one-way equivalent of that. A thorough series of videos, designed by a team of linguists, psychologists, and the people who make Sesame Street, and tested on actual people who have never encountered spoken [insert language here] before. I suggest we hurry, before our supply of such people runs out.

Based on median sexual habits, I doubt we're going to run out of our supply of babies.

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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby Showsni » Fri Jun 13, 2014 6:02 pm UTC

I think the point of the ending is that it isn't meant to be an ending. You can freely ignore it from your headcanon with no differences, you can look on it as a starting point for more fanfic/tales, you can hope one day she'll come back and write another series starting there... But ultimately, it's just meant to show that after all they've been through they're not going to settle down in peace, but they're going to keep looking for adventures. And there are ore adventures out there to find. Something like that.

(And obviously everyone isn't dead, they've been in worse scrapes before.)

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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby VapidFrobie » Fri Jun 13, 2014 7:59 pm UTC

WriteBrainedJR wrote:I love TVTropes, and I spend way more time on that website than is strictly necessary or even logical, but I had to google WMG. I had somehow never been on that part of the site before. I guess that stuff I had planned to do during dead week is not getting done. Speaking of WMG, I wonder why they use that acronym when there are two perfectly good pre-existing acronyms for the same thing: WUS (Wild Unfounded Speculation) and SWAG (Scientific Wild-Ass Guess). I especially like the second because it predates the current definition of "swag" by several decades and I have a predilection for acronymic military slang.


You make good points about the ending of Animorphs. You're the first person to convince me I shouldn't like it. For some reason, I still like it anyway.


Well if you like it, keep liking it. I'm not going to be a douche and try to ruin it for you, or tell you that you have no taste. I mean, it's kinda like the Legend of Korra for the '90s; tense action, surprisingly mature themes, great characters, etc. It's just not exactly classic literature without a nostalgia filter. I don't have nostalgia tied to it, but I love it anyway. So just enjoy what you enjoy.

As for WMG, I like the way the letters look next to each other. M is a nice strong letter to have in the middle of an acronym, and the W gives it a nice pattern. G is always a great letter to have too, because it makes everything sound cooler.

Showsni wrote:I think the point of the ending is that it isn't meant to be an ending. You can freely ignore it from your headcanon with no differences, you can look on it as a starting point for more fanfic/tales, you can hope one day she'll come back and write another series starting there... But ultimately, it's just meant to show that after all they've been through they're not going to settle down in peace, but they're going to keep looking for adventures. And there are ore adventures out there to find. Something like that.

(And obviously everyone isn't dead, they've been in worse scrapes before.)


Putting it that way does help me feel somewhat better.

But still, one ship ramming another at max speed doesn't leave a lot of different outcomes. I mean, I came up with one survivable scenario for my fanfic, but it still feels kinda contrived (blade ship uses its tractor beam to slow them down before impact, so they're not completely destroyed). The story works if you just ignore Marco's final chapter and have them flying off into space as the ending, but yeah. I can't just erase stuff from my headcanon. If I read something, it's in there permanently. Fanfics too. I'm having to work really hard to ignore some other fics I've read because they don't mesh with what I want to do very well.

That's also going to make my AU fic idea really hard. I want to have them rescue Tom, have almost all of them die in the process, and expose all their identities right at the end of book one. Worst case scenario, right off the bat. Rachel goes completely off the deep end in rage and despair. Maybe bring Melissa Chapman into the fold. David could potentially even fit into the group better when he shows up, what with Marco and Jake dead. I love the idea, but I just know my brain is going to get in the way.
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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Jun 13, 2014 8:10 pm UTC

WriteBrainedJR wrote:I love TVTropes, and I spend way more time on that website than is strictly necessary or even logical, but I had to google WMG. I had somehow never been on that part of the site before. I guess that stuff I had planned to do during dead week is not getting done. Speaking of WMG, I wonder why they use that acronym when there are two perfectly good pre-existing acronyms for the same thing: WUS (Wild Unfounded Speculation) and SWAG (Scientific Wild-Ass Guess). I especially like the second because it predates the current definition of "swag" by several decades and I have a predilection for acronymic military slang.

So what you're saying is: who needs WMG when you got SWAG?
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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby EMTP » Fri Jun 13, 2014 11:24 pm UTC

I took the joke to be that any effort to "preserve" civilization will warp and diminish it, because it will inevitably "civilization" as understood by a limited, subjective actor or actors.

A perfectly accurate backup copy of civilization would be like a perfectly accurate map: as big and complex as the thing it purports to describe.

So if we like civilization and want to preserve it, we better focus our minds on preventing the collapse.
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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby xtifr » Mon Jun 16, 2014 8:40 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:Why an English dict? Let's start clean with a sensible, self-consistent language. ( not Haskell)

Oh god, what a horrible idea! Yes, let's choose something as inhuman as possible; something that has few or no opportunities for poetry or puns or humorously ambiguous but technically correct statements.

While we're at it, perhaps we should include instructions for harvesting and removing sperm and eggs at the start of adolescence, and for in-vitro fertilization and building artificial wombs, so they can eliminate all that icky sex stuff that makes life so complicated and entertaining, without losing the ability to replenish their humorless, boring, dreary society. :roll:

With any luck, we can make it that much easier for them to design something that passes the Turing test, by making them be as close to emotionless brains-in-a-jar as possible. :P

Books: Principia Mathematica.

Perhaps, as long as we also include the important addendum provided by Mr. Gödel. :mrgreen:
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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby PinkShinyRose » Tue Jun 17, 2014 10:39 am UTC

xtifr wrote:While we're at it, perhaps we should include instructions for harvesting and removing sperm and eggs at the start of adolescence, and for in-vitro fertilization and building artificial wombs, so they can eliminate all that icky sex stuff that makes life so complicated and entertaining, without losing the ability to replenish their humorless, boring, dreary society. :roll:

Because reproduction is the main motivation to do these things? Are you by any chance speaking for a religious organisation? I would say GnRH inhibitors do that job much better.

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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby KrytenKoro » Tue Jun 17, 2014 2:40 pm UTC

xtifr wrote:Oh god, what a horrible idea! Yes, let's choose something as inhuman as possible; something that has few or no opportunities for poetry or puns or humorously ambiguous but technically correct statements.

While we're at it, perhaps we should include instructions for harvesting and removing sperm and eggs at the start of adolescence, and for in-vitro fertilization and building artificial wombs, so they can eliminate all that icky sex stuff that makes life so complicated and entertaining, without losing the ability to replenish their humorless, boring, dreary society. :roll:

With any luck, we can make it that much easier for them to design something that passes the Turing test, by making them be as close to emotionless brains-in-a-jar as possible. :P

Because doing things in the most roundabout, prone-to-failure, bass-ackwards method available is the only way to make life enjoyable?

Why the hell are you writing in English instead of ancient egyptian hieroglyphics, then? I'm sure you'd have a much better rate of "hilarious literary kludges" to play with.
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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby Morgan Wick » Wed Jun 18, 2014 6:40 am UTC

Some people above asked what morals we would leave to post-apocalyptic society. I would suggest leaving as good a record of the causes of civilization's collapse as is practical under the circumstances.

More generally, I would leave a reasonably robust account of human nature while making clear that it was penned by the species it describes, part of the description of which is being really, really crappy at understanding themselves even when presented with scientific data about it, in part due to not being particularly inclined to scientific thinking. A lot of the problems we have today can be traced to certain tendencies in human nature and the learned class having a very poor understanding of it.

There seems to be considerable evidence that there is but one moral code and just many different lenses through which it is filtered, and that the moral code we teach people doesn't always have much relationship to the moral code people act on, especially the more prominent actors, except insofar as they will focus on those parts of it that justify what they were going to do anyway. It seems to me to be more practical to teach people how they will act rather than how they should act.

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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby mobiusstripsearch » Wed Jun 18, 2014 3:21 pm UTC

If we assumed a total collapse, would it be necessary to leave English* lessons? An English-French/Chinese/Spanish/Russian dictionary wouldn't be hard to come by. But language-neutral picture book for societies of the future could teach English millennia after people have stopped speaking it.


*I'm assuming the collapse of English society, at least. But English might be the most robust language we have to save. I'd love someone to dispute this.
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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby orthogon » Wed Jun 18, 2014 3:26 pm UTC

mobiusstripsearch wrote:*I'm assuming the collapse of English society, at least.


That's a fair assumption. In fact, I predict the collapse of English society in about 28 hours' time as we go 3-0 down against Uruguay...
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby PinkShinyRose » Wed Jun 18, 2014 3:38 pm UTC

mobiusstripsearch wrote:But English might be the most robust language we have to save. I'd love someone to dispute this.

What did you mean by robust in this context? Large spread of speakers? Redundancy within texts? Partial understanding of sentences possible using partial sentences (i.e. due to lack of word order requirements or minimal inter word relations)?
orthogon wrote:
mobiusstripsearch wrote:*I'm assuming the collapse of English society, at least.


That's a fair assumption. In fact, I predict the collapse of English society in about 28 hours' time as we go 3-0 down against Uruguay...

May I infer that you bet against your home country? Collapse of society? It's still preliminaries right? Does England even need to win that one?

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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby orthogon » Wed Jun 18, 2014 3:51 pm UTC

PinkShinyRose wrote:
orthogon wrote:
mobiusstripsearch wrote:*I'm assuming the collapse of English society, at least.


That's a fair assumption. In fact, I predict the collapse of English society in about 28 hours' time as we go 3-0 down against Uruguay...

May I infer that you bet against your home country? Collapse of society? It's still preliminaries right? Does England even need to win that one?

I'm not betting against England, I'm just not very optimistic. And yes, apparently there's what they call here a "mathematical possibility" even if we lose. (Is the equivalent phrase used in other languages?)
Anyway I'm kind of surprised at myself for bringing up the "F" word on the ICT forum. I'm not even that into the "beautiful game". We should probably desist before a mod steps in...
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby mobiusstripsearch » Wed Jun 18, 2014 5:48 pm UTC

PinkShinyRose wrote:
mobiusstripsearch wrote:But English might be the most robust language we have to save. I'd love someone to dispute this.

What did you mean by robust in this context? Large spread of speakers? Redundancy within texts? Partial understanding of sentences possible using partial sentences (i.e. due to lack of word order requirements or minimal inter word relations)?


Something like: "English has one of the world's largest vocabularies for one of the world's largest languages, with one of the world's largest bodies of literature and one of the world's largest bodies of translation."

Latin has a great, large body of literature, but it's not as though most of the texts we'd want to save today have Latin translations.
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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby PinkShinyRose » Wed Jun 18, 2014 7:11 pm UTC

mobiusstripsearch wrote:
PinkShinyRose wrote:
mobiusstripsearch wrote:But English might be the most robust language we have to save. I'd love someone to dispute this.

What did you mean by robust in this context? Large spread of speakers? Redundancy within texts? Partial understanding of sentences possible using partial sentences (i.e. due to lack of word order requirements or minimal inter word relations)?


Something like: "English has one of the world's largest vocabularies for one of the world's largest languages, with one of the world's largest bodies of literature and one of the world's largest bodies of translation."

Latin has a great, large body of literature, but it's not as though most of the texts we'd want to save today have Latin translations.

I don't think large vocabulary is a positive thing. There is not much difference between what languages can express, but redundant vocabulary, as opposed to redundant meaning in texts, should make it less likely a text can be interpreted with only half a dictionary (if 'neither' and 'nor' are instead both represented by 'not' it would be more likely the words meaning can be inferred from context).

I'm not sure about the body of literature: the language is very young, the number of literate native speakers is favourable, but Spanish is older and has more native speakers. Hindi, Arabic and Portuguese are older and have only slightly fewer speakers (although the case for Hindi is vague as some Indian literature is probably in English). Modern standard Chinese is young and has relatively low literacy rates so it's probably slightly lower on total literature.

I don't see how current number of speakers has any use beyond the literary body size when assuming collapse of civilisation.

Influential texts have translations in all major and medium sized and most minor languages to the point they're even translated to Dutch. Obscure texts are usually only available in their native language, but usually less relevant in these situations. I guess you can say something about intermediate importance texts but they tend to be translated to all major and most medium sized languages (including those mentioned for literature body).

The only thing I would say favours English is the body of scientific literature, but increasing numbers of articles are published in standard Chinese so that advantage may not last long. I guess the question is whether fall of civilisation is imminent.

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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby rmsgrey » Wed Jun 18, 2014 7:47 pm UTC

PinkShinyRose wrote:I don't think large vocabulary is a positive thing. There is not much difference between what languages can express, but redundant vocabulary, as opposed to redundant meaning in texts, should make it less likely a text can be interpreted with only half a dictionary (if 'neither' and 'nor' are instead both represented by 'not' it would be more likely the words meaning can be inferred from context).


I've encountered a theory that the English language and the English climate are two major reasons why a tiny island has such global influence - the climate encourages pragmatism and flexibility - if you don't know what the weather is going to be next week, and there's nothing you can do to decide it, then your best bet is to prepare for a range of possibilities, and accept and adapt to what comes when it happens. The language again fosters flexibility of thought, but the crazy, mixed up nature of the language also encourages the association of unrelated ideas.

Sure, it makes English harder to learn, but once you do learn it, it lets you grok things that aren't apparent in other languages...

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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby Klear » Wed Jun 18, 2014 8:55 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:Sure, it makes English harder to learn, but once you do learn it, it lets you grok things that aren't apparent in other languages...


I know that's quite irrelevant to your point, but I think English is actually relatively easy to learn.

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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby mobiusstripsearch » Wed Jun 18, 2014 10:12 pm UTC

PinkShinyRose wrote:I don't think large vocabulary is a positive thing. There is not much difference between what languages can express, but redundant vocabulary, as opposed to redundant meaning in texts, should make it less likely a text can be interpreted with only half a dictionary (if 'neither' and 'nor' are instead both represented by 'not' it would be more likely the words meaning can be inferred from context).


It depends. A larger vocabulary carries more potential than a smaller one. The more ideas you've defined, the more ideas you can express. I prefer the subtle differences between, say, dusk, sunset, evening, nightfall, twilight, gloaming, eventide. They would not be great distinctions for future scholars. But if language is properly an efficient exchange of cold syllogisms, I'd rather take a vow of silence. I think the redundancy here is justified.

Besides, who's to say that other languages -- take Spanish for having 4 words for "the" -- don't have more redundant vocabulary?

I'm not sure about the body of literature: the language is very young, the number of literate native speakers is favourable, but Spanish is older and has more native speakers. Hindi, Arabic and Portuguese are older and have only slightly fewer speakers (although the case for Hindi is vague as some Indian literature is probably in English). Modern standard Chinese is young and has relatively low literacy rates so it's probably slightly lower on total literature.


Oh, yes. English Literature does have phases from England and America. Perhaps neither is the equal of Russian or French high literature, but between them a remarkable variety of literature exists. To my knowledge, there's not a great deal of, say, Portuguese Science Fiction, or Hindi murder mysteries. (I would love to be corrected.) Arabic is a good contender. But they're missing a lot of works English has picked up by translation.

I don't see how current number of speakers has any use beyond the literary body size when assuming collapse of civilisation.


I imagine that a larger society, like English society, would have more to preserve than a smaller one, like Portuguese.

Influential texts have translations in all major and medium sized and most minor languages to the point they're even translated to Dutch. Obscure texts are usually only available in their native language, but usually less relevant in these situations. I guess you can say something about intermediate importance texts but they tend to be translated to all major and most medium sized languages (including those mentioned for literature body).


Maybe it's only a marginal concern after all. But there are very few modern books that don't get English translations. Would the future miss much Spanish literature if you gave them English? I imagine they'd miss more English works than Spanish works if you could only give them one.

The only thing I would say favours English is the body of scientific literature, but increasing numbers of articles are published in standard Chinese so that advantage may not last long. I guess the question is whether fall of civilisation is imminent.


I'm going to switch tack and try defending Chinese now. (It is my second language.)

-Ancient Chinese texts compose a large portion of ancient texts still available to us. (And they are not so hard to read if you understand modern Chinese. Rather like reading Shakespeare.) Many of these texts are of a kind hard to find in native languages. (English does not have a big translated body of, say, what Mesopotamian literature remains to us.)

-Chinese carries a growing body of science and math papers.

-Chinese, as a language of import for thousands of years, might be the best candidate for a language for humans to be understood by. If we were trying to tell the future what living in the last millennium was like, Chinese may be the best language for doing so.

It occurs to me that alphabetical languages, like English, may have another upper hand by being alphabetical. I suspect English would be much easier to learn than many other languages.
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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby PinkShinyRose » Wed Jun 18, 2014 11:25 pm UTC

mobiusstripsearch wrote:It occurs to me that alphabetical languages, like English, may have another upper hand by being alphabetical. I suspect English would be much easier to learn than many other languages.

Why? I thought the advantages of phonetic scripts was that it's easier to learn to read or write them if you already know the pronunciation. This isn't relevant if we just leave books. Besides, it's most useful if there is a strong correlation between pronunciation and spelling, which English lacks.

At least ideograms tend to loosely display their meaning or show some connection between words.

Of course, if we leave audio this changes things for phonetic orthographies, but not necessarily for modern English.

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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby Klear » Thu Jun 19, 2014 12:57 am UTC

PinkShinyRose wrote:
mobiusstripsearch wrote:It occurs to me that alphabetical languages, like English, may have another upper hand by being alphabetical. I suspect English would be much easier to learn than many other languages.

Why? I thought the advantages of phonetic scripts was that it's easier to learn to read or write them if you already know the pronunciation. This isn't relevant if we just leave books.


If we only leave books, they may never learn the pronunciation.

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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby EMTP » Thu Jun 19, 2014 7:06 am UTC

Morgan Wick wrote:Some people above asked what morals we would leave to post-apocalyptic society. I would suggest leaving as good a record of the causes of civilization's collapse as is practical under the circumstances.


And the future archeologists, when they can tear themselves away from the rediscovered Animorphs classics, will report: "Based on our research into the most prominent media of the time, it all seems to have started at a place called 'Benghazi.'"
More generally, I would leave a reasonably robust account of human nature while making clear that it was penned by the species it describes, part of the description of which is being really, really crappy at understanding themselves even when presented with scientific data about it, in part due to not being particularly inclined to scientific thinking. A lot of the problems we have today can be traced to certain tendencies in human nature and the learned class having a very poor understanding of it.


That strikes me as a very subjective, illiberal and anti-humanist perspective, which, while valuable, would be an awful "final word" on humanity, leaving us, after allowing the necessary space for rebuttal, with the following situation:

Spoiler:
Image


Besides, all value judgements about how good or bad we are at science or anything else will be useless to any other species, who will judge us by their own capabilities. Who knows, the hypothetical people in question may look at our record and say "They went from using enslaved quadrupeds for transportation to splitting the atom and sending probes to other planets in a couple of centuries? What incomprehensibly awesome scientific minds they had! Our average IQ is 80!"
"Reasonable – that is, human – men will always be capable of compromise, but men who have dehumanized themselves by becoming the blind worshipers of an idea or an ideal are fanatics whose devotion to abstractions makes them the enemies of life."
-- Alan Watts, "The Way of Zen"

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orthogon
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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby orthogon » Thu Jun 19, 2014 8:14 am UTC

EMTP wrote:And the future archeologists, when they can tear themselves away from the rediscovered Animorphs classics, will report: "Based on our research into the most prominent media of the time, it all seems to have started at a place called 'Benghazi.'"


As BBC Radio 4's The Now Show has repeatedly pointed out, whatever you think of his politics, there are few things as delicious as hearing British Foreign Secretary William Hague saying "Benghazi". I now can't even read the word without hearing his syrupy northern tones in my mind's ear. Thanks for evoking that for me!

EMTP wrote:Besides, all value judgements about how good or bad we are at science or anything else will be useless to any other species, who will judge us by their own capabilities. Who knows, the hypothetical people in question may look at our record and say "They went from using enslaved quadrupeds for transportation to splitting the atom and sending probes to other planets in a couple of centuries? What incomprehensibly awesome scientific minds they had! Our average IQ is 80!"

Yeah, personally I think we rock at Science, but we really have no way of knowing. All we can tell is how big the standard deviation is compared to the mean, i.e. how much better some people are than others at it. We have no idea whether that mean (or more to the point the 99.9th percentile) represents a high scientific ability or not, on a Universal scale.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby peregrine_crow » Thu Jun 19, 2014 8:14 am UTC

EMTP wrote:"Our average IQ is 80!"


:evil:
Ignorance killed the cat, curiosity was framed.

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Re: 1380: "Manual for Civilization"

Postby xtifr » Thu Jun 19, 2014 11:58 pm UTC

KrytenKoro wrote:
xtifr wrote:Oh god, what a horrible idea! Yes, let's choose something as inhuman as possible; something that has few or no opportunities for poetry or puns or humorously ambiguous but technically correct statements.

While we're at it, perhaps we should include instructions for harvesting and removing sperm and eggs at the start of adolescence, and for in-vitro fertilization and building artificial wombs, so they can eliminate all that icky sex stuff that makes life so complicated and entertaining, without losing the ability to replenish their humorless, boring, dreary society. :roll:

With any luck, we can make it that much easier for them to design something that passes the Turing test, by making them be as close to emotionless brains-in-a-jar as possible. :P

Because doing things in the most roundabout, prone-to-failure, bass-ackwards method available is the only way to make life enjoyable?

False dichotomy/fallacy of the excluded middle. The fact that I dislike the idea of a 100% logic-based, ambiguity-free language does not mean I want a 100% illogical/ambiguous language either.

To use an analogy from my field, which will probably resonate with a lot of people here: just because I don't want a bondage-and-discipline programming language does not mean I think everyone should program in INTERCAL.

Why the hell are you writing in English instead of ancient egyptian hieroglyphics, then? I'm sure you'd have a much better rate of "hilarious literary kludges" to play with.

A. I doubt it. English is a much broader language. (Not that "hieroglyphics" is a language in the first place.)
B. I wasn't advocating English as the language of choice. I was expressing my distaste for one proposed alternative.
C. I use it here because the forum language is English--which is irrelevant to what language we might want to use for long-term archives.
"[T]he author has followed the usual practice of contemporary books on graph theory, namely to use words that are similar but not identical to the terms used in other books on graph theory."
-- Donald Knuth, The Art of Computer Programming, Vol I, 3rd ed.


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