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Thursday, January 20

Language and Education - II : Future

While writing the last post, I again got a direction that led to my favorite theory of future evolution of human race, namely gaia or collective intelligence. I am not sure how much time it will take us to reach there and the chances of it happening in my lifetime or your are quite bleak. We are talking of evolution here guys :) !!

If you again consider the argument of last post and I would stick with the mathematics, today one needs to study a lot before he gets to the point where he can start making new contributions to a field and even then he/she ends up in a very specialized field. Now there are two things that make this model of progress inherently doomed.

First one is a little silly but it stands none the less. Most of the major contributions of a mathematician come at a young age and in the first half of his career. There are very few examples of ground breaking works from old mathematicians. For more on this, Hardy's "A Mathematician's Apology" is a good read. Now as the amount of the knowledge to be gained increases, the time you need to study and learn that increases and so the amount of time you have to contribute decreases. The solution lies in a way of quick learning. More on this in a while.

Second reason is that as we get more and more specialized and focused, we struggle to keep the big picture in mind and as a little look into the history of science and maths will tell you, real progress, real breakthroughs mainly come about from inter field explorations. Examples are Coordinate Geometry and most recently, proof of Fermat's last theorem that was the result of a beautiful result connecting the fields of Elliptic Integrals and Modular Forms. Remember, it took a life long ambition and decades of hard work on the part of one man to achieve it.

Now the obvious solution to this problem is collaboration but the effort needed to collaborate can be huge. It is tough for a professional topologist to understand more than 30-40% of a Number Theory Journal (okey, NT's language is easy but take any other field for that matter). And to look for the right techniques and keep track of all the work going on can be out of bounds for a human. If it is not yet, it will be very soon.

The common problem in both the above cases is that the communication between humans happens through language and words right now which if I go by information theory, is a channel that adds noise to the information being conveyed. Moreover the capacity of this channel is limited and we seem to be approaching that limit(think in terms of 100-200 years here). What is needed is a way to be able to communicate better both in quantity and quality. And as the whole evolution story tells us, if it is needed, it is going to comeup.

Some indications to that is already here in form of internet or cyberspace. It is nowhere near to what will come up eventually but it is a beginning in that direction. Machines still do not work as an entity but they can connect and in a way, even humans connect through them. May be this is just an experiment before the actual game with humans begins.

It is sad that languages whom I love so much and which have been so useful to us all this time, will have to phase out to allow for future things but may be not. That will require another post. Meanwhile Future looks exciting and I just can't wait !!

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