Ted Chiang lecture on interspecies communications

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/09/19/separated-by-a-common-language.html


I have been thinking of this subject lately. It seems to me the real difference between wolves and dogs is the ability to understand language. I’ve heard horses can handle some pretty complex commands. And my cat reliably tells me when it’s bedtime. I am fairly certain she can read the clock.


It’s a wonderful topic and I’m sure he understands and would like to transmit great swaths of data to us but I’m struck by his inability to get through one sentence without a countless "um"s, "and"s, backtracks and run-on sentences.
Animals and the general human population usually avoid the teleprompter but he might consider one in the future.


Your cat and the clock probably aren’t communicating but your body language is speaking to kitty long before you have your first yawn.
I’ve had a good handful of cats for ~10 years now and I always pick out a few to walk around the neighborhood with me. Getting out of the house allows them to stop speaking on my house terms and turf and more on theirs. Very little of how we communicate translates well into English as it’s all about timing, looks, motion, intent, shared experience and trust. (I live near a dog park so those latter few items are important.) Getting around the block or a walk to the mailbox can take a half hour sometimes but it’s a low key conversation all the way. It’s pointless to teach them to talk to me on my terms but they do communicate and it’s up to me to pay attention.


This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.