Social Skills – Language – Brain Programming

Friday, January 15th, 2010 at 8:00 am.
by pre.

There is no other creature on this planet which can communicate with the same depth, the same level of abstraction, the same amount of detail, as human beings. Our languages are really the pinnacle of communication techniques developed by evolution. There is nothing in the animal, mineral, vegetable, fungal or micro-biotic worlds which even begin to match it.

A wolf may bark to his pack-mate during a hunt, a monkey may have a different call for “Danger! Run up the trees!” to “Danger! Get on the ground!”, a starling may shout at the top of his voice to help the flocking swarm move around him, and a bee may be able to dance a description of where the food is, but no other animal can describe the events that happened to it during the day in such detail that the lessons learned can be passed to another member of his species.

If a monkey wants to teach another monkey how to use a stick to dig up termites, he needs to actually show it happening, actually grab the other monkey’s attention, and a stick, and have one watch him poke the other into a hole. If a person wants to teach another person how to build a festive Christmas candle-holder he can just give a lecture. He can record it and put it on Blue Peter and teach a million kids at once.

As language evolved it enabled people to do something very special, something very evolutionarily advantageous, it enabled them to program each other’s brains.

Programming brains

Before language, learning was a time consuming process. To learn something about the world a creature would have to experience that thing, probably many times. It would have to physically witness it, likely suffer (or enjoy) the consequences of it.

Before language there was no way for one creature to download the result of it’s experience, the contents mind, into the mind of another creature.

Language changed all that, and it made our species incredibly powerful.

Now, rather than every individual in a tribe having to carry around in their skulls only their own experience of the world, every individual of a tribe can learn the experience of every single member of the tribe.

By telling each other stories about their experiences, the members of the tribe can have the other members of the tribe run the same thing in their minds. Learn the same lessons. Understand the same solutions. Furthermore, since language can be transmitted to many people at once, a single telling of a story can put that experience into a hundred different people at once!

Continually repeating the story allows it to be even more deeply embedded into the mind of the listener than it would be from merely one experience alone. Actually affect a mind more than participation. Language can actually be more powerful than experience itself. Stronger than reality!

Time Binding

More than even this, our language enables us to learn from the experiences of people long dead. As soon as one elder tells a growing youth in a tribe about the adventures he heard explained to him as a nipper himself, the experience of a person long dead has been allowed to alter and shape and benefit the mind of someone with a whole life still to lead.

This transmission of information from one generation to the next, and through them to subsequent generations, shapes the language itself. Languages evolve, they grow, and as each new generation learns that language they learn the gradually developed concepts, ideas, beliefs, archetypes, and embed them all into single phrases, single words. Entire generations worth of experience can be whittled down to just a few syllables worth of sound.

This is what Alfred Korzybski called Time Binding and Robert Anton Wilson refered to as the Jumping Jesus Phenomenon.

Every generation, every new human, takes a streamlined and abridged version of the entire history of human kind since the first human understood another’s utterance as a word, and adds to it their own experience before teaching it to their own children. Our language itself encodes the rapidly accelerating growth of knowledge which our cultures possess

Fictive Intercourse

Language allows something more than just the dry recitation of things already experienced, or heard. Those tellings, those utterances, can be changed by Chinese whispers or by errors and mistakes. Even by simple imagination. Impossible and incredible experiences can be generated in another human’s mind just by making up a story. Language gives us power, and it gives us fiction.

Language gives us culture, it gives us art, it goes us the very society in which we live, for all these things are passed from one generation to the next by the words we use, the words we invent, the sentences we utter to each other.

This is, of course, incredibly powerful!

But it also has dangers. We’ll speak of some of those dangers, and how to overcome them, next week.

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