science

Hi Emily, my question to you is looking into the future, how do you think a Trump Administration will handle environmental issues, such as climate change and the rapid loss of biodiversity? I am a huge fan of your program, keep up the amazing work. We need people like you more then ever right now. -Olivia

thebrainscoop:

Hi Olivia, thank you for your question.

Today, I have no solid answers – I have a lot of feelings, only some of which I can process right now. My initial thoughts are that it’s likely federal science programs and institutions will see a decrease in funding and support as that money will be reallocated/redistributed. If that happens, then universities that depend on federal grant support could suffer… smaller, more competitive grants, fewer positions supported, fewer students incentivized to pursue these programs… But I don’t know. I’m conjecturing. 

When I made our ‘Go Vote For Science!’ video, I meant every word. I mean it when I want our viewers to understand that politics isn’t just about people arguing in D.C., it’s about policies made in D.C. that are carried out and enforced throughout the country and our world. But we elect the policymakers. We elect who we think will best represent our interests. 

I fear that supporting science in a meaningful way is not a true interest for the majority of people, and in a way, that fear was realized last night.

Science needs champions to speak up for its processes, which aren’t perfect, but the field is held up to its own accountability. It’s a field that is meant to be deeply examined and its work replicated, even encourages replication, testing, and a perpetuation of question-asking and answer-seeking. But often, that process comes off as unduly rigorous, pedantic, in some ways ‘old-fashioned,’ and the questions being asked are often seen as trivial, or inconsequential by those unfamiliar with science research practices. I fear the perception that science has outside of its own community is that it only serves itself, which is not true. And I spend every fiber of my being attempting to open up those misconceptions and share how brilliant, guided, resourceful and imaginative scientific inquiry truly is, and how – thanks to the field and its scientists – we have a more coherent, better illuminated understanding for how our planet works, what it needs, and what brings it harm.

I do not know how Trump and his administration will handle environmental issues. I do know he does not have a strong history of even believing that such current issues and events – climate change being a major one – are… real. Or that they are really caused by human actions, which are really having truly negative impacts on our planet and its inhabitants. Frankly, I don’t even know if he cares. 

But here is what I do know: I will not give up my goal of helping people better understand and appreciate our terrifically wonderful planet. I will not begin to entertain the idea that the work of scientists and those communicators dedicated to sharing their research is somehow unimportant or lacking in meaning. I will be vocal about issues which will negatively impact the support and funding for science, especially when it comes to topics dealing with biodiversity. I will continue to create well-researched content about these topics in a way that is easy to understand and share. I will continue striving to keep you involved, in whatever way I can. 

Knowledge empowers people, and it can mobilize them in a way to take action for those causes they believe in. It’s my hope that we don’t forget the power that such knowledge and information contain, and that we don’t allow for that to be taken from us because suddenly we have a person in one of the most powerful leaderships positions on the planet who perhaps will not use that same knowledge or information to make changes for the better. We have to keep working. We have to keep seeking that knowledge, even when it’s hard, and even when it’s getting harder. 

In whatever small way I can help, I will. For whatever small, positive impact I can make, I’ll make it. These are the core values I hold now, and will always hold. That is the most I can do, and even so, it’s a lot. I hope you will do the same. And we’ll take this a day at a time. 

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thefilmstage:

The first poster for the NASA drama Hidden Figures starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe.

See the trailer.

omgomg is this for real

Can’t believe this is the first I hear of this movie! Looks like something I would watch the CRAP OUT OF and eeeee Janelle Monae

Blind people gesture (and why that’s kind of a big deal)

allthingslinguistic:

superlinguo:

People who are blind from birth will gesture when they speak. I always like pointing out this fact when I teach classes on gesture, because it gives us an an interesting perspective on how we learn and use gestures. Until now I’ve mostly cited a 1998 paper from Jana Iverson and Susan Goldin-Meadow that analysed the gestures and speech of young blind people. Not only do blind people gesture, but the frequency and types of gestures they use does not appear to differ greatly from how sighted people gesture. If people learn gesture without ever seeing a gesture (and, most likely, never being shown), then there must be something about learning a language that means you get gestures as a bonus.

Blind people will even gesture when talking to other blind people, and sighted people will gesture when speaking on the phone – so we know that people don’t only gesture when they speak to someone who can see their gestures.

Earlier this year a new paper came out that adds to this story. Şeyda Özçalışkan, Ché Lucero and Susan Goldin-Meadow looked at the gestures of blind speakers of Turkish and English, to see if the *way* they gestured was different to sighted speakers of those languages. Some of the sighted speakers were blindfolded and others left able to see their conversation partner.

Turkish and English were chosen, because it has already been established that speakers of those languages consistently gesture differently when talking about videos of items moving. English speakers will be more likely to show the manner (e.g. ‘rolling’ or bouncing’) and trajectory (e.g. ‘left to right’, ‘downwards’) together in one gesture, and Turkish speakers will show these features as two separate gestures. This reflects the fact that English ‘roll down’ is one verbal clause, while in Turkish the equivalent would be yuvarlanarak iniyor, which translates as two verbs ‘rolling descending’.

Since we know that blind people do gesture, Özçalışkan’s team wanted to figure out if they gestured like other speakers of their language. Did the blind Turkish speakers separate the manner and trajectory of their gestures like their verbs? Did English speakers combine them? Of course, the standard methodology of showing videos wouldn’t work with blind participants, so the researchers built three dimensional models of events for people to feel before they discussed them.

The results showed that blind Turkish speakers gesture like their sighted counterparts, and the same for English speakers. All Turkish speakers gestured significantly differently from all English speakers, regardless of sightedness. This means that these particular gestural patterns are something that’s deeply linked to the grammatical properties of a language, and not something that we learn from looking at other speakers.

References

Jana M. Iverson & Susan Goldin-Meadow. 1998. Why people gesture when they speak. Nature, 396(6708), 228-228.

Şeyda Özçalışkan, Ché Lucero and Susan Goldin-Meadow. 2016. Is Seeing Gesture Necessary to Gesture
Like a Native Speaker?
Psychological Science

27(5) 737–747.

Asli Ozyurek & Sotaro Kita. 1999. Expressing manner and path in English and Turkish:
Differences in speech, gesture, and conceptualization. In Twenty-first Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 507-512). Erlbaum.

So many interesting potential follow-up studies! For example, do Turkish-English bilinguals use the appropriate gestures in each language, or do they show transfer effects from their first language? It also seems plausible to me that there might be some gestures that come with language while others might be learned by imitation (perhaps iconic gestures like rolling and down versus arbitrary gestures like thumbs up). 

This is incredibly cool! 

thewightknight:

The colorful secret of a 1,600-year-old Roman chalice at the British
Museum is the key to a super­sensitive new technology that might help
diagnose human disease or pinpoint biohazards at security checkpoints.

The glass chalice, known as the Lycurgus Cup because it bears a
scene involving King Lycurgus of Thrace, appears jade green when lit
from the front but blood-red when lit from behind—a property that
puzzled scientists for decades after the museum acquired the cup in the
1950s. The mystery wasn’t solved until 1990, when researchers in England
scrutinized broken fragments under a microscope and discovered that the
Roman artisans were nanotechnology pioneers: They’d impregnated the
glass with particles of silver and gold, ground down until they were as
small as 50 nanometers in diameter, less than one-thousandth the size of
a grain of table salt. The exact mixture of the precious metals
suggests the Romans knew what they were doing—“an amazing feat,” says
one of the researchers, archaeologist Ian Freestone of University
College London.

The ancient nanotech works something like this: When hit with
light, electrons belonging to the metal flecks vibrate in ways that
alter the color depending on the observer’s position. Gang Logan Liu, an
engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who has
long focused on using nanotechnology to diagnose disease, and his
colleagues realized that this effect offered untapped potential. “The
Romans knew how to make and use nanoparticles for beautiful art,” Liu
says. “We wanted to see if this could have scientific applications.”

READ MORE

Oooooo

thelingspace:

linguisten:

ichbinkahless:

Could you imagine if modern physicists treated Einstein and Newton like modern linguists treat Chomsky?

I love the social sciences. But social scientists really need to stop treating everything like it’s academic warfare and that anyone who’s wrong about anything is a “linguistic imperialist”.

To put your argument on its head: Imagine if modern linguist(ic)s indeed treated Chomsky’s hypotheses like they would be scrutinized in modern physics. Where are the clear protocols, experiments, observations, the reproducibility, in brief — empirical evidence? Einstein would not have gotten a Nobel Prize for his work had it not withstood peer scrutiny. Newtons findings are in accord with empirical data that could be gathered by other physicists in the same ways he did. That is not the case with Chomsky. 

I am sorry, but that has got nothing to do with science, be it “hard” or social. Incontrovertible axioms and dogmatic infallibility are more typical for religions. That would also account for the way Chomskyanists attack “heretics”.

I end up thinking about this sort of thing a lot. This is the big picture question behind a lot of what I’ve done in my adult life. I view myself as a scientist, and I came into linguistics from doing bioresearch – molecular biology stuff. And here’s where I always come back to: generative linguistics, based in some conception of a Universal Grammar, is a scientific enterprise. If I felt generative linguistics wasn’t a science, I’d have quit. We made an episode about this earlier in the year, but there’s some more stuff that I want to say around it, and this is a good time. And this’ll probably get long, but that’s how we do things here.

At the core of the generative linguistics project is the idea that the ability to use language is an innate property of the species. We just have some knowledge of how language can work that’s in our heads as babies. And we use that knowledge to acquire language ridiculously quickly: we know the sound system of our language from the time we’re 12 months old, we know a lot about syntax and interpretation by the time we’re 2-3 years old, we pick up words at an astonishing rate, and we can even tell apart different languages and sort their grammars in our brains as tiny little kids. Without some knowledge of the parameters of the system they’re learning, kids can’t work this out in the time frames that they do. If we say all we have is basic problem-solving strategies and statistical learning without any innate linguistic knowledge, then we can’t capture the real world data. For example, linguists have shown kids can’t learn the English stress system or even learn where word boundaries are in the time frame they acquire them without assuming there’s some base of knowledge underneath it.

So from our current state of knowledge of how language works, we believe we have a system of innate knowledge in our heads: of phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. The Universal Grammar project – the heart of generative linguistics – is really just an ongoing attempt to characterize that system, by looking at how languages behave, coming up with hypotheses about the principles and parameters that underlie the system, getting more data, and then adjusting our hypotheses until they fit better. That’s science.

And we’ve had a lot of changes in linguistics since the 1950s, just within the generative part. Syntax has moved from phrase-structure grammars and simpler transformational grammars to X’ Theory and Government and Binding to the Minimalist Programme and phase theory. Phonology has gone from SPE to autosegmental phonology and feature geometry to Optimality Theory. I don’t think anyone in Generative Land really believes we have it all solved yet, and we may blow things up again. I think we probably will (particularly with OT). But that’s also science – we discard stuff when it doesn’t work.

We’ve taken ideas from even well-known linguists and tossed them away when they clearly wouldn’t work. Just look at, say, Sympathy in OT, proposed by one of the people who came up with the theory to begin with. It was pretty clearly wrong, and we got rid of it. People are still toying with the systems, trying to see if we can make it work with the data we have already and are getting more of, and if it becomes clear that we can’t, we’ll try to find something that works better.

I don’t really think there are incontrovertible axioms in generative linguistics. Even things as famous as the Binding Principles have changed in their characterization as we’ve gotten more syntactic research done. It’s like any other science: you can tinker and propose small things at the edges without upsetting anyone. No one ever got mad at me for being like, hmmm, the Prosodic Transfer Hypothesis should also apply to comprehension, as well as production. It was a small-ish piece in second language acquisition. But you want to change a big piece in the field, a core idea like Binding or Feature Geometry? You better have the data to back it up. We try to fit it into the theory first, to see how far we can push the ideas we already have. But if the data doesn’t fit the hypotheses, then we move on.

Even super basic stuff, we should be questioning, as we learn more and get more sophisticated. My favourite class in grad school (and possibly ever – it’s a close run) was taught by a phonologist named Dan Silverman. This was the class: he had written a book about phonology arguing that, well, phonemes were not actually a thing. And his attitude was “here’s my argument. I researched it a ton. You guys are smart. COME AT ME.” And we did! I think we approached it with an open mind, and so did he, and it was awesome. I wasn’t entirely convinced, but man, I can see it. He had an argument for sure. It was so cool.

Two things there: it’s hard to imagine something more basic than phonemes in linguistics – that’s like week 2 of your intro course (and video #4 for us). And also, this happened at the linguistics department at McGill, which is about as generative a place as you could imagine. But we were still taking up this debate, and it ended up being really interesting. We should keep doing that.

Are we really doing the best job we can as scientists in linguistics? There’ve definitely been people who have been too dismissive of people working outside the generative framework, and that’s just unhelpful. We should be willing to work with anyone who’s working with us in good faith. But there’s more experimentation going on now, across discipline boundaries, which is really important. Like, there was just a workshop last month about doing syntactic parsing models with Minimalist Programme stuff, and that is sorely, sorely needed – I really want to see ways to reconcile top-down and bottom-up processing facts. We should keep integrating ways to work on learning new things.

But we shouldn’t think that the syntactic judgments of the past that were used for a lot of the theory are just wrong. A couple of recent papers by Jon Sprouse, Diogo Almeida, and Carson Schutze (for one of them) looked at what happens if you go through and take all the judgments from a syntax textbook or a random sample from a leading theoretical linguistics journal and then do experiments with people to see if they agree with the judgments. And… they do. The vast, vast majority of those judgments, which on the face don’t seem so experimentally valid, can be and have been backed up by experimentation.

As computers have gotten more powerful and we’ve gotten the ability to crunch more data and do more experiments, we have to look at whether our belief that things have to be in the grammar were just that we didn’t have the power before. But the thing is, we’re doing that, too – there’s a paper presented by Sprouse and colleagues at NELS this past month looking at that, and still finding that grammar is necessary.  But we should keep checking! If we can pare down what’s in UG, then we should.

Because ultimately, we want to get this right. We want to capture the entirety of the linguistic system. And there’s a ton of cool linguistics stuff outside of these questions that is super worth studying! Language variation and historical linguistics and language documentation and more, it’s all really interesting and vital research.

But when it comes down to it, the generative enterprise is a worthwhile one. The data that we have an innate linguistic system is, to me, very convincing, and so we should work out what all is going on in our heads. The only way to do that, and to feel confident about what we find, is science. So that’s precisely what we’re doing. ^_^

If linguistics wasn’t a science, I wouldn’t be doing it. 

This is not to say that things that are unscientific can’t be immensely valuable and meaningful – novels are maybe my favourite thing ever – but linguistics, particularly, benefits as much as ecosystems or subatomic particles from rigorous, creative scientific inquiry. The thing about linguistics that makes me love it, rather than find it mildly interesting, is that we can approach it scientifically, and we do. It’s all about looking at this really frankly amazing thing pretty much every human being can do, and trying to understand why. There is room within linguistics for philosophy and anthropology, and these approaches enrich the field as a whole and help us get a better grasp of what it is we need to be studying; but the part of linguistics that gets me the most excited, that makes me pour my enthusiasm and energy into things like a Master’s thesis or The Ling Space, is that exploring the human language faculty is like exploring the deep ocean. We’re barely starting to figure out how it works, and what’s in there, but we have a few solid ideas and they’re letting us look deeper and further. 

Does every linguist approach the field from a scientific standpoint? No, and it’s not necessarily crucial that they do, so long as their research is well-grounded and rigorous in its own way. But the scientific approach to linguistics is attested in a considerable body of widely varied research, with transparent methods and reproducible results, and I find that this is the data that’s the most exciting to learn about, since this is the data that tells us the most about this thing we all can do. 

People may have different opinions, and I know I can enjoy reading anecdotal language stuff too – it’s fun and it makes you think and can lead to great ideas. But the science of linguistics is what made me want to be a linguist, and it’s what keeps me involved even years after being out of school. There’s so much to be discovered, and so much to be communicated. I’m thrilled I get to be a part of that scientific journey. 

thebrainscoop:

This ^^^^ is my 8th grade school picture.

I’ve never been so nervous to give an interview.

I’ve never told an interviewer that “I’ll think about it…” for months. Clammy-hands at opening her emails. Immediately start sweating thinking about what my answers would be. 

Everyone would like to forget who they were at some point – there are periods of our lives we look back to and cringe, become nauseated, bury our heads in our hands.

I moved across the country, to Montana, in an effort to escape the person I used to be in a desperate attempt to pretend ‘it’ never happened. 

I bring to you: my interview with Lea Shell, Before They Were Scientists.

Amazing, amazing interview with The Brain Scoop’s Emily Graslie, about middle school and science education and mental health and personal journeys. Just go read it. It’s all great, but the passage that really resonated with me the most is when she’s asked to sum up her personal philosophy: 

I find it so unfathomably unlikely that anything at all exists. The cause and effect and the chain of events that had to go in place for the world to be here, for anything to have evolved, for human life to exist, for technology to advance as quickly as it has. That unlikelihood is why I have so much energy. Why I have so much enthusiasm for my life. It’s an unlikely existence and we ought to be taking advantage of it at every opportunity (…)

Sing it, Emily. 

Do Constructed Languages have Linguistic Value?

thelingspace:

dsbigham:

aebrowne:

adventurewithben:

So I unleashed a giant can of worms today on Reddit, asking if there were any graduate programs centered around or dabbling in constructed languages. The second response I received was from a user who insisted that constructed languages weren’t real languages (with the inevitable example of…(with the inevitable example of Klingon).

And then there was confusion over what actually constitutes a constructed language and why there is an academic stigma against even mentioningthem. Is ASL a “conlang”? What about Modern Hebrew? Or Wampanoag? What about pidgins?

So my question to Tumblr is: What linguistic value is there to studying existing constructed languages?

Perhaps there is no practical value to studying conlangs but for budding linguists, they provide a wealth of opportunity to explore and practice analysing.

Even more than that, they can reveal something about the how the human mind interacts with language and allows for an outlet of brilliant creativity. 

Its been proved over and over that learning another language helps brain functions, I doubt it matters whether the language is constructed or not.

Besides, most languages are constructed or manipulated in some way to serve the political or social needs of the time. At the end of the day, even ‘natural’ languages are only a product of the human interactions with it. 

I agree with all of the above (with some caveats with the last paragraph…), and I’d like to add some thoughts. ConLangs clearly *do* have some kind of stigma attached to them among “professional linguists”. Even those of us who are interested in them can’t do “real research” on them (in the US especially, though there does seem to be some professional interest in AuxLangs over in Europe). There hasn’t always been this stigma— Edward Sapir was a supporter of the idea of an international AuxLang and many of his contemporaries were as well (not to mention Tolkien!). So what’s happened? What changed? And why?

Why does it offend people— not just strike them as silly and banal, but outright offend— when I tell them I teach a class on ConLangs? 

It can’t be because they’re “useless” or lack “practical value”. If that were the argument, then we could say the same thing for Tucano, which has fewer speakers than Esperanto, Arapaho, which has fewer speakers than Klingon, or even Wolof, which has quite a few speakers, but is not exactly a “practical” language to learn for most people. Indeed, in terms of “practicality” let’s all learn English, Spanish, Mandarin, Hindi, and Arabic and chuck the rest, yeah?

CLEARLY, THAT IS A RIDICULOUS STATEMENT that no respectable linguist (really, no respectable person) would consider. So the anti-ConLang sentiment can’t rest on ground of “practicality”.

Well, what of the issue of time/resource management— the idea that learning Klingon takes away from learning Michif? While this is at least a better argument, it’s still not a very solid one; it falls back on a notion of utilitarianism that always falls apart. Why waste time on Novial when you could learn Kawaiisu? Well, why waste time reading Willa Cather when you could be reading Shakespeare? Or why waste time on Language when you could learn Programming? In a humanities-based endeavor especially, there’s always a danger in this “why waste time” argument because the utilitarian value of things isn’t always immediately recognized— nor is it even always clear. If learning Loglan gets you interested in language, there’s already value, I feel. And if it doesn’t? So what?

So the anti-ConLang sentiment really can’t rest on a utilitarian argument, either.

So what’s left? Honestly, I’ve thought about this for a long while now and I just don’t know. Is it a kind of Frankenstein revulsion at “playing god” with language? Is it the fear that “normal linguists” will be tainted by association with “those dorks who speak Dothraki”? Is it some hold-over connection that people make between the AuxLang movement of the 19th Century and the kind of Romantic Notion of The Folk that justified racism and eventually leads to Hitler? Is it, like most things in modern linguistics, Chomsky’s fault?

I don’t know.

But here’s what I do know. Every single other field has a notion of what I call the “artefactual approach”— a practice-by-doing, toy-model-testing, break-it-to-see-how-it-works way of investigating their objects of study. Clearly, natural science and engineering take this “artefactual approach” with At Home Chemistry Sets, Build A Clock From A Potato, Make Your Own Sundial, etc etc etc. But even most of the humanities teach artefactually as well— Anthropology has us to “study” our family home, archaeologize our own trash cans; Math gives us calculator games and blocks for comparing powers of ten; History tells us to look into our family trees (which is as far removed from ‘Professional History’ as anything); Computer Programming, Art, and Music are *literally* a learn-by-making approach to knowledge; Economics and Psychology have almost nothing but toy models we’re encourage to play with, even if they aren’t physical artefacts. Even English wouldn’t expect us to develop an appreciation of the written word without DOING SOME WRITING, right?

Right.

So, if we want to make a case for the value of Linguistics— for the value of LANGUAGES— we can’t afford to keep ignoring ConLangs. We can’t even afford to treat them as polite oddities that “those people” do. We have to welcome them into the fold, develop the respect for them they deserve, and we have to start using them as teaching tools. Basically, if linguistics wants to survive the next century, it has to start making language into an thing to be played with, not a thing to revere.

I’ve gone back and forth on ConLangs, but I agree with the points here now. And one of the Ling Space team is big into them, too, so I’ve heard about them more, too.

Back in the day, my main complaint about them was trying to use ConLangs to prove things that they weren’t really constructed to do. Or, to put it differently, trying to make points about natural language syntax or phonology or such. Often, I thought that the people doing this were being oversimplistic and not taking into account factors that could come to bear on the thrust of whatever argument they were trying to make. And so the experiments they were doing were then of dubious value.

But there’s a lot to be done with them and playing around with them and all that for helping draw people in and having fun with language and understanding how languages can work. It’s accessible and can help draw people into thinking about language in general. And if you’re careful, you can build experiments around them that could tell us about language in general, for sure. It’s not off limits.

And really, they’re fun, on top of the rest of it. If you like analyzing real languages and working out how they tick and cultural and historical influences, why not have fun with thinking about it from your own world? I always really appreciate it when someone’s clearly done the work to make a language really work like a language in a fantasy world. It makes the world feel more real.

So yeah. Making languages can be just as valid as studying ones that are around already. You just need to know what your goal is for doing it. ^_^

I was making up languages back when I was a big nerd writing Epic Fantasy in high school, and it would be a flat-out lie to say that doesn’t strongly tie in with the fact that I eventually went on to study linguistics. I think interest in ConLangs goes hand in hand with interest in capital-L Language, that weird thing we do with our hands and faces that makes us understand each other, that’s built communities, that’s started wars. I can’t agree more with dsbigham‘s idea that linguists should embrace ConLang as the hands-on lab for its science, just like home chemistry kits or Meccano sets or whatever. I’ve sort of been pushing for thelingspace to eventually do an episode about ConLangs, actually, because yeah, even though they’re not usually umbrellaed under Linguistics proper, they definitely are super neat and interest a lot of people. 

I’m thinking, could it be that the generalized disdain for ConLangs in the academic linguistic community might spring from a fear of not being taken seriously? After all, even as it is, we sort of have to struggle to be considered a science sometimes (you just have to look at my degree to see that). This being in spite of, you know, systematic methodology, testable predictions with reproducible results, practical and theoretical applications, heck, I even used electrode caps in my thesis research. I don’t especially take issue with having gotten an arts degree for a neuroimaging study myself, but I know stuff like that doesn’t sit well with some people; maybe those are the same people who shun ConLangs as somehow not being “real” linguistics?

One more point. The whole deal behind (a major part of) linguistics is that language is a thing that just sort of happens, through no individual or social effort – people might spend a lot of time thinking and teaching and working with and debating language, but fundamentally, it’s a magical wonderful miracle sprung from the brain of every typically functioning infant in the history of the species. This idea, itself, has not been without contention (maybe babies are just really really good at learning from behavioural patterns, etc), so maybe there is a tendency among generative linguists to discredit ConLangs as fake and offensive because they obviously aren’t sprung from the literal mouths of babes. If people start thinking that ConLangs are linguistically valid, WELL. So long, Universal Grammar. It’ll be an uphill battle to fight all over again.

I dunno. Some of the coolest, smartest people I know have made languages up. But I definitely remember the red hot shame of being a Ling undergrad and being ridiculed for my interest in ConLangs. Complicated issue.

Do Constructed Languages have Linguistic Value?

bluedelliquanti:

harinef:

whitegirlsaintshit:

b1a4gasms:

la-lobalita:

kentstatecult:

Most of my Saturday was spent looking up stuff about Bina48.

BINA48 is a project of Terasem Movement, Inc™ and is designed to test whether a person’s consciousness can be downloaded into a non-biological or nanotechnological body after combining detailed data about a person through the use of future consciousness software

A lesbian of color black lesbian (who is married to a trans woman) becomes the model for an ultra advanced AI system.
This is huge.

Other links: [x] [x] [x]

So lemme get this… the developer/CEO of the development company is a jewish trans lesbian woman and the highest paid female ceo in america, and this project is based on her wife, a black lesbian woman, and both are mothers with children from previous relationships who they have now each legally adopted???

this exists in the actual world and people still think sci fi can only be about straight cis vaguely-christian white men…….

okay!!!!!!!!!!!!! yes!!!!!!!! also, are they lookin for a sugar baby?

i am slain

Once again, truth outdoes fiction.

Also, read everything you can about Martine Rothblatt and Bina Aspen immediately.

Whoa, wow, what. This is so incredible that I actually had to take a minute and do some research to make sure it wasn’t a hoax! I’m amazed I never heard of this before~ It’s sort of beautifully fitting that I heard about it through bluedelliquanti, too. I can’t help but want to ask, was Bina48 part of the inspiration for the comic? Or is it just an amazing coincidence? [PS O Human Star is starting up again TOMORROW go read it right now]

There’s a lot of press about the Terasem Movement Foundation, the motor behind this whole project, most of which seems fairly negative – even going so far as to ridicule their idea of “mindfiles” being uploaded into a cybernetic “consciousness” that would live on after a person’s death, a kind of immortality of the Ghost in an artificial Shell. (My personal concern would be more along the lines of, even if you can reproduce someone’s personhood in android form, I’m not sure you could reproduce their inner life; the idea of surviving as a sort of faux me for the benefit of my loved ones and the world, but with my actual awareness long gone into the great beyond, is sort of eerie and awkward to me. I mean, it could have fantastic applications to, say, replicate amazing professors into hundreds of classrooms, immortalize great minds, create a line of empathic service machines… But maybe not literally prolong a human consciousness into a facsimile. But anyway.)

Let’s take a step back though, because in a sense, whether or not this is actually feasible is way less important than the fact that people are actually working on this. Dude. I grew up expecting that when I’d be an adult, it would be The Future. I’ve been feeling mostly cheated of my robots and hoverboards (although the Minority Report-style motion activated screens on the sides of bus stops my city recently implemented are partly making up for it). It’s super exciting that all kinds of furious science is being attempted. The connections between science and science-fiction flow both ways, as ever, but now we’re really starting to see the results. And I haven’t even touched on the fact that the people behind this project are amazing fascinating individuals who totally blow the scientific/sci-fi cliche of (as perfectly summarized by commenter above) “straight cis vaguely-christian white men” out of the water??

There’s a lot going on here. Whatever your opinions on the Bina48 project, it’s definitely and absolutely worth reading up about.