Re: Gender Neutral Pronouns, one last time

From: James Higgins (
Date: Wed Apr 04 2001 - 18:02:21 MDT

First, this whole argument that "it" must be dumb matter is silly. Please
point me to a definitive reference (dictionary, encyclopedia, "good"
English text, etc) that specifies this.

And if you really feel like pushing the issue, you may refer to me as IT as
much as you like. I'm not about to get offended by such matters.

Second, I believe Japenese has some concept of gender neutral. Actually, I
believe they may have 3 complete sub-dialects, one for male, one for female
and a third for non-gendered.

Third, if my "Chat Bot 3000" was running slow, I'd just say it was running
slow. Certainly it may be due to insufficient hardware, but it would still
be slow. We don't separate out human minds from the hardware they run
on. While the mind is running on the hardware they are, essentially, an
entity. It will obviously be easier to upgrade/change the hardware for
AIs, though.

At 06:46 PM 4/4/2001 -0400, you wrote:
>At 4:11 PM -0500 4/4/01, Jimmy Wales wrote:
>>Advocates of strange pronouns are right to point out that the language can
>>evolve dynamically over time. And it will evolve, but in a natural way, not
>>in a forced and artificial way. The connotation of "it" as "dumb matter" (if
>>there is such a connotation, which I doubt!) will soften and be lost over
>This is the natural way. We start using this pronoun more or less
>spontaneously (it doesn't really matter where we got the idea for it
>from). Over time, more and more people start using it. Before you know
>it, everyone is saying 've'.
>The artficial way is the French way, which actually works. When the
>Academy decides to add a new word, there is resistance at first, but
>eventually everyone starts to use it instead of whatever word was used
>previously for the idea (probably something adopted from English).
>>We already see this taking place. People speak, quite naturally,
>>about the "intentions" or "desires" of their computers, VCRs, etc.
>>"Why is my VCR blinking like that?" "It wants you to set the time."
>>"Why is my computer cursor spinning?" "It's still trying to find that
>>This natural usage will be expanded as computers get smarter.
>I doubt this. As of right now, there aren't any computers running
>software that you might want to refer to as ve. My computer is just a
>tool, at the moment, that can complete tasks that I tell it to do. It's no
>smarter than the desk it sits on or the ground under my house. Even with
>current AI software, the computer wouldn't really be smart enough to
>warrant the use of anything besides it. In the future, however, when AIs
>are smart enough to converse as well as or better than humans, it will be
>much harder to use it, except by those who wish to be derogatory. Compare
>calling a person it. This line will blur even more with SIs, as they will
>include uploaded humans. I know that I personally won't put up with being
>called an it.
>Also, computers won't get any smarter, but the software that they run
>will. I might refer to it being slow, but I would refer to the copy of
>Chat Bot 3000 that I might having running as ve being slow. Ve is
>something that is intelligent, but it is not. The two are seperate. Of
>course, there will always be those who misuse language (the singular
>'they', etc.). :-/
>BTW, are there any languages that have gender neutral pronouns already
>(besides the SL4 dialect of English)? I don't know of one off the top of
>my head and such a novelty seems like it would have been pointed out to me
>by now, but then again it is easy to miss this stuff.
>Gordon Worley
>PGP Fingerprint: C462 FA84 B811 3501 9010 20D2 6EF3 77F7 BBD3 B003

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