Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

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[NON BLOG] Practical Semiotics

Saturday night, schizmatic uttered the immortal phrase "beat down by a guy in a Stetson with dip." The other Southerner there understood what he meant. The non-Southerners there, Canadian and non-Canadian alike, required a detailed explanation of this sentence in ANS (Approved Nabokov Style) format. This sentence was easy enough to decode: "beat down" is "beaten up"; "Stetson" refers to the famous hat, and has lower-class connotations; "dip" is "chewing tobacco," and likewise has lower-class connotations. Even so, it required a detailed explanation, not only of the surface translation but of the problem words' deeper cultural associations. Without being immersed in a Southern linguistic environment, I doubt that I could ever acquire the easy familiarity of the Southerners present with this sentence.

The construction of associational networks is a process that is central to intelligence and consciousness, and to sophontcy's epiphenomena of culture and language. Stream-of-consciousness meditations are notoriously difficult to capture, whether in prose or in artificial-intelligence research, but without the ability to make fluid connections between different states of mind an animal would have the same chance of survival in the wild as your average desktop computer. It's crucial to be able to make these connections in the first place, but so is the ability to break into these relatively closed systems, to somehow interrogate the participants on the meaning of their words. It can be done; it was done, on a small scale, last night.

There's a story waiting to be written about this subject.
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