RE: ESSAY: Optimizing thoughts for speed

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Fri Jan 19 2001 - 17:06:43 MST

Please note: many of us don't generally think in words or languages in any
explicit way, thinking instead
visually or without any sensory metaphor

Different personal metaphors for thinking have been explored by
psychologists many times over
the past century

I remember in Jacques Hadamard's excellent book "The Psychology of
Mathematical Invention"
he touched on this point. Not very many mathematicians were verbal

It's also worth noting that much Eastern spiritual tradition is based on
"stopping the internal dialogue."

-- Ben

> -----Original Message-----
> From: []On Behalf
> Of Joakim Almgren Gāndara
> Sent: Friday, January 19, 2001 6:39 PM
> To:
> Subject: ESSAY: Optimizing thoughts for speed
> First, my disclaimer:
> Although it is one of my longest e-mails, this is not an actual essay,
> that's just a categorization of the message. Thought I'd use the topic
> system for once, just to point out that this e-mail is a personal thought,
> not news or scientific facts. Stop me if <SL4 or if you've
> already discussed
> this.
> I don't know if anyone has ever attempted to think in Rap Lin
> Rie (also
> known as Dutton speedwords) or any other shorthand system. I am merely
> proposing some systems and languages that might optimize human or
> artificial
> thoughts (note: in this text, I use "thought" to refer to
> conscious thoughts
> that are somehow verbalized by our "internal narrator"). I will focus on
> human thought, since I would expect that an AI created by humans would be
> rather anthropomorphic.
> ...
> I have often cursed my brain for constantly thinking my thoughts
> "out loud".
> I often feel that the verbalizing of thoughts is a bottleneck, that the
> brain narrates after I've expressed the thoughts subconsciously,
> forcing me
> to wait until it's done narrating before I can continue thinking.
> Sometimes
> I get stuck in the middle of a thought simply because I can't
> find the word
> I need or because the English word eludes me. Yes, Swedish is my first
> language, but I often think and dream in English.
> I've tried to bypass this problem by concentrating on not
> verbalizing my
> thoughts or by just interrupting the narrator and jump on to the next
> thought, "cut to the chase" so to speak. I find that I can do without the
> internal narrator for short whiles, but that I tend to lose my train of
> thought and not reach any useful conclusion; my thoughts only fan out and
> scatter wildly, a mildly Lovecraftesque sensation that reminds me of my
> fever-induced nightmares and states of mind that seem frightening for no
> apparent reason. It seems to me that my internal narrator has three main
> purposes: 1) It helps me record and categorize my thoughts for future
> reference, 2) filters out irrelevant thoughts, conjectures and
> memories, and
> 3) tries to direct the flow of thoughts towards some kind of conclusion.
> (Perhaps it only performs function 1 or 2, and the other two
> follow from one
> of those? Any thoughts?)
> My conclusion is that a narrator is needed in order to organize
> thoughts, and that to optimize the speed of conscious thought we need to
> either optimize our language(s) or invent a shorthand language designed
> specifically for thinking. There are a number of shorthand
> languages already
> available; I will use Rap Lin Rie as an example here.
> For those of you who haven't heard of RLR, here's a sentence from the
> Gettysburg Address to give you an idea of how it works: "T e alge
> oki & oki
> k w debi fa c." ("It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do
> this.") Note that there is little nuance in RLR ("oki & oki") in order to
> optimize for size and speed. Dutton obviously didn't care much about
> aesthetics when he designed the language, he tried to construct an
> international shorthand language. However useful it might be in
> writing, it
> is hardly useful in speech. (How would you pronounce &? "Et"? That means
> "little" in RLR. What about "w"?) This makes it rather useless as
> shorthand
> thought language as well, unless one can learn to think using only
> typographical representations of words. Since I think it's possible, RLR
> might be a good candidate.
> Other existing languages that might be considered are Chinese or
> Japanese or any non-inflected language. Sadly, the many nearly identical
> words have resulted in awkward constructions to specify which meaning a
> certain word has in a certain instance, such as "look-see" in
> some parts of
> China (this might be obsolete). Anyway, most natural languages
> tend to have
> the same average speed and size, which rules out most currently spoken
> languages as thought optimizers.
> I've been toying with the idea of a parallell language, a
> language that
> expresses many things in parallell. For example, I could be
> talking to John
> about the weather while I talk to Jane about the mad cow disease.
> Sort of li
> ke how DNA can be read in six different ways. Imagine the intricate
> double-meanings and puns that would be possible in such a
> language! However,
> I have no idea how to construct a parallell language. The closest
> I've come
> is a kind of yin-yang version of Morse code, where you can either
> interpret
> the message as usual or invert it, interpreting the pauses as
> beeps and the
> beeps as pauses. For example, Long Beep (Short Pause) Long Beep also means
> (Long Pause) Short Beep (Long Pause). However, this is obviously not a
> parallell language; it's just two multiplexed channels.
> Personally, I think it's pure lunacy to use only one of our
> five (six?)
> senses when representing thoughts internally. Why not think in images,
> odours, sounds, etc, combined? Why not construct a language that
> consists of
> all the senses, and multiply current thinking speed with a factor of five
> (six?)? In such a language, each concept is represented by a sensation. It
> would probably be impractical, and it wouldn't help me at all, since my
> problem is remembering certain words; in this language, the
> vocabulary would
> be huge, since the idea is to have one sensation for every single concept.
> I'd love to read any thoughts on this. I think that this is
> relevant to SL4
> because I feel that to achieve transhuman intelligence we have to
> understand
> the limitations of the mind and try to overcome them. Has anyone
> else given
> this matter some thought? Please reply -- privately, if the subject is
> buzzed. (Always the optimist.)
> - Joaquim Gāndara
> .

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