Photo by Carlos de Toro @carlosdetoro

Some make us look foolish,

and some make us look wise.

We are imperfect mirrors

for each other’s lives.


AI Can Master Some Kinds of Human Language

Alberto, yours is a really good article, and I agree with a lot of it, especially your emphasis on the importance of pragmatics. However, in this discussion we must recognize that there are several kinds of human language that differ in the nature of the environment(s) in which the speaker and hearer, or writer and reader reside and interact.

First, there is one-way language interaction through language only. That is where the speaker or writer produces utterances or texts without otherwise interacting with the hearer or reader. Stories, other narratives, and poems…


What kind of person likes to watch shows like Jeopardy, and why?

Official Jeopardy game show image

As we all know, and as journalists are taught to ask, there are various kinds of questions: Who? What? Where? When? How? and Why? To that list I can add at least two more: Whose? and What kind of?

The simplest questions — Who? What? Where? When? — involve just identifications of relationships between words (names for people and things, geographic locations, and times) and other aspects of the entities described by those words (pictures, phrases, relationships like ownership and authorship, and so on).

Other questions — What…


Human language communication is complex but not mysterious; it does not require general intelligence

Image by author
  1. The Playing Card World — a shared perceptual and conversational space

The Playing Card World I have been working with for a long time is a deceptively simple environment that involves two conversational partners, one me and the other a computer program, who share a perceptual space containing playing cards and piles of playing cards that we can each directly manipulate and converse about.

Despite its apparent simplicity, it illuminates many aspects of how our human languages and cognition work, and how computer programs can be…


It’s all about Human communication and its complexity

Image by author

We humans are social animals with complex communicative behavior, both intentional and unintentional. Our communications, in turn, affect our individual and group behavior. It’s a very complicated system of interlocking cycles.

Currently we are experiencing a communicable disease transmitted by a virus that we have named Covid-19. Most of us can be infected by it, but not all of us believe we can or understand how it works and how it is spread.

We use our languages to communicate with each other about the disease and the virus that causes it. But…


Cell “phones”, Cloud services, and multiple tags for files are wonderful tools

Photo by Wonderlane on Unsplash

I don’t know about you, but I have finally found a combination of easy ways to eliminate paper records from my life.

First, and most important, is the ease with which paper documents can now be digitized — not with cumbersome scanners but with the modern cameras in our “phones”. (I don’t know why we in North America still call them “phones”. I use mine much less for making phone calls than for lots of other things.)

Second is the ease with which a photo can be uploaded to a cloud service for secure storage that is accessible from almost…


And what can we do about that?

Photo by Jørgen Håland on Unsplash

All of us sometimes cause pain for other people, and often that is unintentional. We may not notice that we are doing so, or we may lack sufficient self-awareness to realize the harm we are causing.

But some people seem to derive pleasure from causing pain to other people. We call them “cruel”. What in our evolution as human beings, and what in the individual development of cruel people, makes some people cruel? …


It’s been with us for centuries

14th-century miniature from William of Tyre’s Histoire d’Outremer of a battle during the Second Crusade, National Library of France, Department of Manuscripts, French 22495 fol. 154V — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crusades

Tribes against tribes with different gods or religious practices, Christians versus pagans, Roman Catholics versus Eastern Orthodox Catholics, Christians versus Muslims, Christians versus Jews, Catholics versus Protestants, Muslims versus Hindus, Sunni versus Shia, the list goes on and on.

There are differences of detail in each case, of course. Often one group wields more political power than another, or is, on average, wealthier than another, or has, on average, a different skin or hair color than another. …


Of course it can also spread in larger droplets

Particle sizes in micrometers — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Particulates

It surprises me that in developing and explaining public health guidelines for the current pandemic, experts haven’t made more use of the similarities in size between virus particles and tobacco smoke particles. Whether we are smokers or not, most of us are familiar with how tobacco smoke spreads indoors and outdoors. Indoors it can spread fairly quickly to all parts of a room, with the concentration depending on how many cigarettes are burned. Outdoors it disperses fairly quickly, especially if there are breezes.

That fact that virus particles are about the…


Photo by Elias Arias on Unsplash

There is an awful and predictable sameness to the violence between Israelis and Palestinians, and to the gun violence in the United States. It leaves those of us who are spectators feeling helpless and possibly even guilty. What can and should we do to try to prevent, or at least mitigate, such events?

It seems that there is little I can do as an individual, except perhaps to offer what should be some rather obvious advice, based on a few simple observations and the appropriate metaphor that violent human conflicts are like wildfires.

Some people enjoy violence. Many young men…

Jim Mason

Studies language, cognition, and humans as social animals

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store