[FoRK] Non-speech, non-keyboard direct communications will create a new class of humans

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at jarbox.org
Sun Jun 23 23:15:49 PDT 2013

On Jun 23, 2013, at 9:56 PM, Stephen Williams <sdw at lig.net> wrote:
> If you start rattling off various specs to a true car buff, they'll remember, picture, and validate the information very rapidly.  Being able to do this in many different areas is probably a good definition of a polymath; rapid understanding and absorption (and chaining to related and deduced / induced thoughts) is probably more indicative than spouting stored info.

Your example is someone who already knows the subject matter cold. A few adjustments to what they know is a trivial learning exercise.

Let's assume your "true car buff" is very intelligent. How long would it take them to grok the basics of distributed computation over polymorphic space-filling curves? I could give a digest to a handful of extremely competent but unfamiliar computer scientists but it would not happen at the speed of thought. Far slower in fact. Concepts and contexts are important to understanding and those are not picked up trivially.

> In any case, it is well-known that people can generally understand much faster than most people speak most of the time.  Even if you simply compressed everyone's speech for faster, consecutive playback, you'd speed up communication.  

This is only because the semantic content of what most people say is minimal. If they are politicians, it may very well be null. While an easily observable fact, it applies to few things either valuable or important.

What you are suggesting is compelling, I simply can't find a plausible basis for it. Perhaps if you had a personal AI digesting and processing things into the minimal information theoretic distance from what you currently understand? We are a long way from that today.

> I'm sure that you've had the experience of discussing something with someone who shares an overlapping knowledge background.  You can use concise terms and words to imply whole architectural pieces, principles, modes, or other idioms at different levels without detailed explanation.

Yep, and those are the engineers that I hope to work with for the rest of my career. My current company has a lot of engineers that operate at that level. They just are not that common in the broader tech business, at least for me.

(We were recently rated as one of the best companies to work for in the Pacific Northwest on the strength of our engineering team. Most talented engineering team that I've ever worked with in the tech business and I have worked at some sexy tech companies in Silicon Valley.) 

This requires interacting with a select, context-dependent subset of humanity, it is not a general principle.

> If you are collaborating on brainstorming, design, and engineering, sharing the half-baked ideas is valuable also.

It depends on the context. This only works if familiarity with the subject matter is evenly distributed. If you have one subject matter expert, it typically devolves to their opinion (if you are sensible).

Few things are more frustrating than being the subject matter expert and having to entertain a dozen half-baked ideas that ignore elementary literature on the subject. This is a lot closer to the reality.

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