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  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 17:48:26 on 2016/05/31 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Bible, , , , , file, file name, file names, filename, filenames, files, graphical user interface, GUI, hardware, HCI, , human-computer interaction, , , , natural language, , , , text, , ,   

    The Ubiquity of the Text Box (excursus) 


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    One of my favorite authors in the field of „search“ is John Battelle. Although he was not trained in the field of information science or information retrieval, his experience in the fields of journalism and publishing at the cusp of the so-called „information revolution“ apparently led him to learn many things sort of by osmosis.

    One of my favorite ideas of his is the way he talks about human-computer interaction. Initially, this was almost exclusively text-based. Then, he notes, with the advent of „graphical user interfaces“ (GUIs), computers became more and more instruments with which humans, would point at stuff. He has presented this idea quite often, I don’t even know which presentation I should refer, link or point to – which one I should index.

    In the early days of search, the book was ubiquitous. Indeed, several hundred years ago it almost seems as though each and every question could be answered with one single codex – and this codex was called „Bible“ (which means, essentially, „the books“). We have come a long way, baby. Today, we might say that online, the text box is king“ (Tom Paine, eat your heart out! 😉 ).

    Although computer manufacturers desparately try to limit the choices consumers have once they have acquired their machines with loads of previously installed (and usually highly sponsored) software, it will not be very long before the typical consumer is confronted with a text box in order to interact with his or her mish-mash of hardware and software. Even without typing out any text whatsoever, whenever a human presses on a button to take a picture or clicks on an icon to record an audio or video, the associated files are given a text-string filename by the gizmo machinery. All of the code running on each and every machine is written out in plain text somewhere. When computers write their own Bible, it is quite probable that they would start off with something like „In the beginning was the text, and it was human.“

    If humans ever asked an „artificially intelligent“ computer a question like „what is love?“ the computer would probably be very hard-pressed not to respond „a four-letter word“.

     
  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 19:04:09 on 2016/05/27 Permalink
    Tags: , , artificial languages, , , , , , , emerge, , human intelligence, , , , , , , , , natural language, , , , , , , , , traing set, traing sets, , , , ,   

    Literacy and Machine Readability: Some First Attempts at a Derivation of the Primary Implications for Rational Media 


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    Online, websites are accessed exclusively via machine-readable text. Specifically, the character set prescribed by ICANN, IANA, and similar regulatory organizations consists of the 26 characters of the latin alphabet, the „hyphen“ character and the 10 arabic numbers (i.e. The symbols / zyphers 0-9). Several years ago, there was a move to accommodate other language character sets (this movement is generally referred to as „Internationalized Domain Names“ [IDN]), but in reality this accommodation is nothing more than an algorithm which translates writing using such „international“ symbols into strings from the regular latin character set, and to used reserved spaces from the enormous set of strings managed by ICANN for such „international“ strings. In reality, there is no way to register a string directly using such „international“ characters. Another rarely mentioned tidbit is that this obviously means that the set of IDN strings that can be registered is vastly smaller than strings exclusively using the standardized character set approved for direct registration.

    All of that is probably much more than you wanted to know. The „long story short“ is that all domain names are machine readable (note, however, that – as far as I know – no search engine available today on the world-wide-web uses algorithms to translate IDN domain name strings into their intended „international“ character strings). All of the web works exclusively via this approved character set (even the so-called „dotted decimals“ – the numbers which refer to individual computers [the „servers“] – are named exclusively using arabic numerals, though in reality are based on groups of bits: each number represents a „byte“-sized group of 8 bits… in other words: it could be translated into a character set of 256 characters. In the past several years, there has also been a movement to extend the number of strings available to accommodate more computers from 4 bytes (commonly referred to as Ipv4 or „IP version 4“) to 6 bytes (commonly referred to as Ipv6 or „IP version 6“), thereby accommodating 256 x 256 = 65536 as many computers as before. Note, however, that each computer can accommodate many websites / domains, and the number of domain names available excedes the number of computers available by many orders of magnitude (coincidentally, the number of domain names available in each top level domain [TLD] is approximately 1 x 10^100 – in the decimal system, that’s a one with one hundred zeros, also known as 1 Googol).

    Again: Very much more than you wanted to know. 😉

    The English language has a much smaller number of words – a very large and extensive dictionary might have something like 100,000 entries. With variants such as plural forms or conjugated verb forms, that will still probably amount to far less than a million possible strings – in other words: about 94 orders of magnitude less than the number of strings available as domain names. What is more, most people you might meet on the street probably use only a couple thousand words in their daily use of „common“ language. Beyond that, the will use even fewer than that when they use the web to search for information (for example: instead of searching for „sofa“ directly, they may very well first search for something more general like „furniture“).

    What does „machine readable“ mean? It means a machine can take in data and process it algorithmicly to produce a result – you might call the result „information“. For example: There is a hope that machines will someday be able to process strings – or even groups of strings, such as this sentence – and be able to thereby derive („grok“ or „understand“) the meaning. This hope is a dream that has already existed for decades, but the successes so far have been extremely limited. As I wrote over a decade ago (in my first „Wisdom of the Language“ essay), it seems rather clear that languages change faster than machines will ever be able to understand them. Indeed, this is almost tautologically true, because machines (and so-called „artificial intelligence“) require training sets in order to learn (and such training sets from so-called „natural language“ must be expressions from the past – and not even just from the past, but also approved by speakers of the language, i.e. „literate“ people). So-called „pattern recognition“ – a crucial concept in the AI field – is always recognizing patterns which have been previously defined by humans. You cannot train a machine to do anything without a human trainer, who designs a plan (i.e., an algorithmic set of instructions) which flow from to human intelligence.

    There was a very trendy movement which was quite popular several years ago that led to the view that data might self-organize, that trends might „emerge from the data“ without needing the nuissance of consulting costly humans, and this movement eventually led to what is now commonly hyped as „big data“. All of this hype about „emergence“ is hogwash. If you don’t know what I mean when I say „hogwash“, then please look it up in a dictionary. 😉

     
  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 17:57:54 on 2016/05/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , character, characters, , , , , , indexes, , , informationretrievel, intelligability, intelligable, , , , , , , , natural language, , , ,   

    Fundamental Principles of Rational Media 


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    In my previous post, I noted that my concept of rationality differs from the general, widely accepted views of this notion. I do not disagree with these views. Instead, I believe the way I view rationality is more generalized.

    To put it simply: Rationality can be interpreted as any idea – in other words: any idea can be considered rational – if it can be expressed in language. What language is / isn’t – that’s perhaps a more difficult question to answer, but as mathematics is one such language… and as logic, i.e. „mathematical logic“ can be interpreted as a subset of mathematics, logic can also be interpreted as a language.

    Most so-called „programming“ languages are also, well: languages. „Natural“ languages are also languages (indeed: the distinction between „natural“ language and „artificial“ language is really not very distinct, clear, obvious or anything like that). And as I mentioned in my previous post, even facial expressions, scents, DNA and many other things can also be interpreted as language.

    In the context of „rational media“, however, I suggest limiting the meaning of the expression to what is often referred to as „machine readable“ language. I would even suggest limiting the extent of „rational media“ more than that, because there are actually many types of machine-readable expressions which are usually considered to be unintelligible by humans without machines. For example: Hollerith cards, magnetic tape and discs, compact discs, usb sticks, bar codes and QR-codes to name just a few. There are also some expressions which are simply difficult to express in the traditional notion of natural language – for example: numerical values written in hexadecimal formats.

    All of this is by and large simple and straightforward in an online setting, because web addresses are almost all written using what most people consider to be natural language expressions (though note that so-called „international domain names“ / IDNs are written in a code which allows for algorithmic translation between the latin character set used in all domain names to transformed expressions in specialized character sets [and vice versa] ). In general, surfing the web is very much like using an encyclopedia, a lexicon or what used to be called a „card catalog“. The primary difference is that whereas the web is considered to be distributed, the traditional forms were usually viewed as created by a single author, organization or institution. Therefore, whereas for many decades and even centuries people had become very accustomed to indexes being something created by specialized „indexers“ or „indexing services“, today the „index“ to the web is considered to be integrated into the web itself (note, however, that the registries of „top level domains“ [TLDs] are actually sort of like the „indexes of last resort“ … that is, „last resort“ excluding ICANN).

    I will simply abruptly stop here for now – as I feel this is probably already quite a lot to digest. If you would like to add comments, ideas, questions or anything like that, please feel free to register @ nooblogs.com, which is intended to be more for discussion and/or sharing of ideas.

     
  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 15:36:22 on 2016/05/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , cognizance, cognizant, , , , , , , , , , , , natural language, , , , , , , , , , , , sapience, sapient, , , , , web sites, , ,   

    First Essay on Rational Media 


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    I recently mentioned my new and improved „rational media“ concept… – now I want to begin to try to unpack that idea. Of course, it’s complicated.

    Let me start off with something simple: media (in general). What makes something „media“ (or a „medium“) is not the medium itself, but rather the way people use it. For example: A bottle is just a bottle and not yet a medium. If your concept of „bottle“ presupposes that it’s a medium (for transporting liquids), then you could also just call it an object. The object is not the medium.

    When one person uses the object to deliver something to someone (whether a liquid or a message or whatever), then that object becomes a medium. Why does this matter?

    It matters because that is what the common notion of a „website“ is. When most people talk about websites, they are not actually referring to web sites, but rather the HTML code, the software running on the server, the database, even the wires and cables, the computer being used to display what the user sees, and a lot of other stuff. In the end, they mean what they see when they enter the website’s address (i.e., the web site) into the browser’s location bar. Many people don’t even know what a web browser is, let alone a location bar. Ask 10 people at Times Square what a location bar is, and I bet the majority will look at you kind of funny.

    Long story short: A website is no more a medium than some random object made out of glass. Only when people visit a web site (i.e., a location on the web) with the appropriate technology (e.g. a smartphone, laptop, computer, etc. with some sort of „web browser“ software installed) does a website become a medium.

    So what is „rational media“? Media are rational if/when there is some kind of rational thought process involved when the user decides to visit a certain web site (i.e., location). Here’s a simple example: A user wants to know what the weather will be like today or tomorrow, and therefore they visit weather.com. Or they want to know what people are twittering about, and therefore they visit twitter.com. When they give such instructions to a web browser, then that results in them seeing something on their screen, and they usually call whatever they see „the website“.

    It is important to note that the way I use „rational“ is different than the way the term has often been used in the past. The way the term has been used for many millennia, people often think it has to do with a particular kind of logic – or that there is such a thing as being irrational. The way I use the term, there is no such thing as being irrational – instead: every kind of thinking is rational in its own way.

    Sometimes people say something like „I wasn’t thinking“. This is probably false. What probably happens in such cases, is that people think without being aware of what they are thinking. In the tradition of Freud, psychologists often refer to this as „unconscious“ thinking. Indeed: suggestions which appeal to such thinking are commonly used in advertising.

    Is acting upon enticing or seductive suggestions irrational? I feel it is no more irrational than smiling or hugging or kissing someone. Many such behaviors are also ways of thinking which are sort of „hard coded“ into our mental apparatus. We may not feel we are thinking or behaving rationally, but I think it is more straightforward to consider such motivations to be simply a different kind of rationality… – perhaps nature‘s rationality?

    Does this mean that all media are rational media – sort of like all of nature is natural? Maybe it does – I am not sure yet. At the moment, I feel it is sufficient to say that there are different kinds of rationality. I do feel that in order to be rational, there has to be (at the very least) some sort of decision involved (and perhaps even that such decisions must be made by humans, animals or similar „living“ and/or „cognizant“ beings). I can also imagine a situation in which a nit-picker might be inclined to segment this sort of rationality from that sort of rationality with a fine-toothed comb, and thereby come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a ridiculous thought.

     
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