Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I articulate, therefore I am

I was reading Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody this morning. Shirky manages to say things that you "know" in a way that makes them feel like fresh insights. I love that. My favourite bloggers are people that do the same thing.

It got me asking myself this question: When someone tells you something you "know" in a way you could have never explained it, are they actually telling you something new?

After all, it's very easy to 'know' things in a vague abstract way. Articulating them in a common language is when they move from abstract to concrete. Easy to think. Hard to do. The best (I.e. real) ideas are simple and expressing them with a tool as blunt as human language is surely a fine test for the simplicity of an idea.

In On Intelligence, Jeff Hawkins dedicates many of his own words addressing the question: What does it mean to 'understand' something. You can understand something in silence, in the dark, so how do you prove that you understand it without action? He goes on to explain that 'understanding' is based on predicting events or information based on our own model of reality. Simple, when it concerns a blue cup in a room, but a bit different for more complicated, less tangible ideas.

So, this morning, when I read something Shirky wrote and nodded wryly, did I really already know it, or did it merely flicker in my brain as relating loosely to several thoughts I may have toyed with but never actually mastered?

Discuss. (Or nod wryly)

3 Comments:

Anonymous Asi said...

nodding wryly

spot on.

for me it's:

"He(she) articulates therefore l love them so much and envy them as well. a lot" (that is as snappy as Descartes innit?)

oh, the art of articulation....

11:41 am  
Blogger Faris said...

shucks *blush*

i guess a lot of life is universal and to communicate you want to connect to other people but give it your own expression.

i sometimes think that's the shock of recognition - having someone else encapsulate something in way that seems true and new at the same time.

10:34 pm  
Blogger Andy Whitlock said...

the 'new but familiar' thing is interesting.
Reminds of a conversation I had with a Motorola engineer a few years ago. That's exactly what he was trying to do: create objects that were both instantly familiar/intuitive as well as look like nothing you've seen before.
New tune, same beat.. if you will.

8:58 am  

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