A Windy Night’s Thoughts

April 13th, 2004 11:18 PM

It’s wonderful outside tonight. Cloudy, windy and warm, the way it can be only after a storm. The windchimes on Howard Street are singing. Windowpanes are rattling with the gusts. And I went walking barefoot in the night.

While I was walking, I thought over some things I’ve read recently.

It occurred to me that Leibniz’ Language could likely be expressed in a far more practical form than the product of primes with multiplication and division as operators. A bitfield with binary operators could likely express the same thing. Factoring wouldn’t be a problem anymore, but the sheer magnitude of the required bitstring boggles the mind.

Adding to the ever-growing Language Log links, Mark Liberman’s Borges on metadata post cites Borges’ El Idioma Analítico de John Wilkins:

Leaving hopes and utopias apart, probably the most lucid ever written about language are the following words by Chesterton: “He knows that there are in the soul tints more bewildering, more numberless, and more nameless than the colours of an autumn forest… Yet he seriously believes that these things can every one of them, in all their tones and semitones, in all their blends and unions, be accurately represented by an arbitrary system of grunts and squeals.”

Liberman introduces the quote as an issue to think about relating to whether “the semantic web and similar efforts will get rid of the need for automatic information extraction from text.” Yet I can’t help but feel that the quote says more about our inability to write what we feel and what is than it does about our ability to have computers parse what we are able to express.

Also, regarding the “any page on the internet that is not comment-enabled seems fundamentally broken” thing, I think some combination of the semantic web (possibly mostly in the form of RSS 1.0 feeds), a client application like Dashboard, and something like VoteLinks could handily solve this problem. Visit a page, and comments just pop up in your Dashboard window. Simple.

Anyway, good links abound recently.