Time travel stories are always bad. They're just bad. I could rant, but if you agree with me there's no need, and if you disagree there's no point.
Anyway, I wrote a time travel story. If you are a person who is reading this blog post, I have extremely low expectation that you will figure out how to read this story. If you're not a person reading this blog post, I have zero expectation that you will figure out how to read this story. The only hint I'll put here is that you have to start by printing it out.
I've been going back and forth about the degree to which an artistic endeavor should be adapted to the expectations of a potential viewer. I suppose expectations must be aligned in order for communication to occur (I think that; it may not actually be the case). But at some point, I have something that I want to communicate that doesn't fit into the regular syntax. The idea exceeds the form in which it ought be placed. The gift doesn't fit the wrapping paper.
This story isn't that big of an idea. It's just odd enough shaped that I don't expect people to put in the effort to understand it. Unless I shove it in their face and bother them until they finish it.
This is a burp of an idea. The roughness of the post reflects the lack of manners of the belch.
So there's this paper that I think is really important. It's new, but it consolidates some old points in a beautiful demonstration: https://arxiv.org/abs/1906.09012
Roads&Love demonstrate that the statistical distributions of concepts as they're elicited from text (amodal sources) are well-matched by the statistical distributions of concepts as they're elicited from perceptual sources (their demonstration used visual stimuli).
Okay lame and boring, what does it mean. I think this paper has huge and broad implications regarding communication and meaningful interaction. Insofar as communication requires the conceptual alignment of multiple agents, this paper implies that communication is actually possible between two agents.
Okay, why is it valuable to demonstrate that communication (here, I mean the conceptual alignment of multiple agents) is actually possible. Isn't it obvious that communication is possible (here, I would cite and recite Quine and Putnam). The answer from philosophers would be no, it isn't self evident that multiple agents can align their conceptual systems such that communication is possible. Hence the value of an empirical demonstration.
But more importantly, this study illuminates the constraints by which such an alignment could occur. Namely, two amodal conceptual systems could align insofar as they're based on the same underlying system of concepts. The fact that Roads&Love could align an amodal text-based system of concepts and a perceptual image-based system of concepts is due to the fact that the text upon which the amodal system of concepts is based emerges from language use that emerges from perception. The development of text is inherently grounded in perception, and therefore the two systems can be aligned.
Extending this to communication, the extent two which two agents' conceptual systems are grounded in the same subset of reality (assuming that reality is the thing that is sampled for the construction of conceptual systems) determines the extent to which these systems can align, and thereby the extent to which communication can occur.
What are the constraints of communication? A shared set of perceptual experiences - in order for communication to happen between agents, a conceptual system grounded in the same set of perceptual experiences is necessary. Between agents of the same kind (e.g. humans), the majority of the work is carried by the perceptual systems being nearly identical - identical perceptual systems means that the agents have access to the same subset of reality as one another. Perceptual systems that are too highly varied may yield perceptually based concept systems that are not easily aligned.
But even with shared perceptual systems, the experiences accrued by an agent may be such that the yielded conceptual systems of that agent may not be well-aligned to another agent. La vie.
But moreover, since the most interesting this is the conceptual alignment between agents that can communicate, we need to talk about the conceptual systems that emerge from amodal sources, such as language or text.
(Language serves as a means of sharing conceptual systems)
If the amodal conceptual systems between two agents are not well-aligned, it might be for two (or more?) reasons. First, it might be because the perceptual experiences accrued by the agents from which the linguistic conveyance of amodal conceptual systems are derived are thoroughly dissimilar (can communication happen in this case? it's hard to say); in this case, even though linguistic inputs are well-aligned to perceptual experiences, conceptual alignment becomes challenging.
Second, it might be that, even though the perceptual experiences of the agents are aligned, the construction of the linguistic inputs for one or both of the agents emerge from a different statistical distribution than that which is accessible from perception (honestly, I think this is an interesting case, and potentially a source of ought).
So then, how do we increase the degree to which communication can occur between agents? If shared perceptual experiences generate conceptual systems that can be aligned, then as shared experiences between agents increases, the degree of possible communication between agents increases (likewise, as shared perceptual experiences decrease, the ability for agents to communicate decreases).
But this is dependent on the degree to which the amodal conceptual systems align, since communication occurs through amodal avenues. If amodal conceptual systems emerge along a statistical structure that do not align with the statistical structure of that which can be perceived, then the potential of communication occurring decreases, since the conceptual systems cannot be aligned.
This is really a pedantic way of saying that communication requires shared experiences, mediated by overlapping ideologies. But it provides a framework where these constructs can be formalized and empirically tested
This makes a large claim about the degree to which communication can occur based on conceptual alignment. Can empirically test this. Find conceptual alignment of participants using like a similarity rating task for items in a particular domain (politics and religion are salient, could also do scientific topics, or other domains of expertise). Similarity rating task yields the conceptual system for a particular participant. Pair off participants and have them discuss topics within a particular domain for some alotment of time (10 minutes?). After discussion, have participants do an exit survey. Ask questions about how well they understood the other person's perspective, how well they conveyed their ideas, how well the other person understood what they said, whether they had to dumb down or hold back while discussing their position (did they hold back because they thought the other person wouldn't get it?)