The story of the Tower of Babel (or Babylon) has always fascinated me as God got seriously threatened by humans if and only they would all speak the same language. To prevent that God confused all the languages spoken by the people on the tower and scattered them across the earth. Regardless of different personal religious beliefs of whether it happened or not the underlying theory of growing power when humans interconnect is intriguing and we live at times this truth is evident. Writing, print, the Internet, email, messaging, globalization and social networks are all connecting humans. Connections which dramatically increase humanity competence in many different frontiers. The mere development of science and technology can be attributed to communications among people, as Issac Newton once said “standing on the shoulders of giants”. Still, our spoken languages are different and although English has become a de-facto language for doing business in many parts of the world still there are many languages across the globe and the communications barrier is still there. History had also seen multiple efforts to create a unified language such as Esperanto which did not work eventually. Transforming everyone to speak the same language seems almost impossible as language is being taught at a very early age so changing that requires a level of synchronization, co-operation and motivation which does not exist. Even when you take into account the recent highly impressive developments in natural language processing by computers achieving real-time translation the presence of the medium will always interfere. A channel in the middle creating conversion overhead and loss of context and meaning.
Artificial Intelligence can be on its path to change that. Reverting the story of the Tower of Bable.
Different emerging fields in AI have the potential to merge and turn into a platform used for communicating with others without going through the process of lingual expression and recognition:
Avatar to Avatar
One direction it may happen is that our avatar, our digital residual image on some cloud, will be able to communicate with other avatars in a unified and agnostic language. Google, Facebook and Amazon build today complex profiling technologies aimed to understand the user needs, wishes and intentions. Currently, they do that in order to optimize their services. Adding to these capabilities means of expression of intentions and desires and on the other side, understanding capabilities can lead to the avatar to avatar communications paradigm. It will take a long time until these avatars will reflect our true self in real-time but still many communications can take place even beforehand. As an example let’s say my avatar knows what I want for birthday and my birthday is coming soon. My friend avatar can ask at any point in time my avatar what do I want to get for my birthday and my avatar can respond in a very relevant manner.
The second path that can take place is inline with the direction of Elon Musk’s Neuralink concept or Facebook’s brain integration idea. Here the brain-to-world connectors will be able not only to output our thoughts to the external world in a digital way but also to understand other people’s thoughts and translate them back to our brain. Brain-to-world-to-brain. The interim format of translation is important though an efficient one can be achieved probably. One caveat in this direction is the assumption that our brain is structured in an agnostic manner based on abstract concepts and is not made of the actual language constructs. The constructs a person used in order to learn about the world in its own language. If each brain wiring is subjective to the individual’s constructs of understanding the digestion of others’ thoughts will be impossible.
A big difference vs. the times of Babylon is the fact there are so many humans today vs. back then which makes the potential of such wiring explosive.