Future evolution of natural language

All of the examples to date of a natural language have involved only people’s brains and bodies — nothing else. Over dinner last night some colleagues and I discussed an interesting question: Can future evolution of natural language involve computers?

We already see very simple phenomena that suggest such a thing might be underway, such as the way the Twitter community adapted Chris Messina’s idea of hashtags — a wonderful example of folksonomy.

It could very well be that folksonomic tagging is currently the most direct cybernetic analog of natural language evolution. But somehow I feel that this way of evolving language is not quite rich enough.

And here we get to the crux of the biscuit. I assert that as augmented reality becomes more better, more ubiquitous and more perceptually blended into the everyday, human communication will “come back to the body”, and the use of computers to interact with each other will no longer seem like the strangely disembodied affair it is now.

At that point, evolution of natural language itself will start to shift into new directions, since even over cyberspace we will be able to make use of those parts of our minds that have evolved to respond well to subtle bodily clues such as eye gaze, bodily stance, head tilt and arm/hand/finger gestures.

How all this might relate to computational power-ups, such as the use of machine learning and computer vision, remains an open question.

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