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October 26, 2006 » 12:59 am

Reversing 1984: Augmenting Language

Brad Neuberg and I were having a conversation about HyperScope earlier today, and Brad said something interesting about language. He said that HyperScope expands people’s vocabulary. He contrasted that to George Orwell‘s 1984, where Newspeak is constantly shrinking.    (LEA)

I loved the Orwell reference, and thought it would be worth rereading the relevant passages. (I ended up rereading much more. It’s such a well-written and engaging book, it was hard to put down.)    (LEB)

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. Already, in the Eleventh Eidition, we’re not far from that point. But the process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller. Even now, of course, there’s no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime. It’s merely a question of self-discipline, reality-control. But in the end there won’t be any need even for that. The Revolution will be complete when the language when the language is perfect.” (46)    (LEC)

If reducing vocabulary and narrowing language are prerequisites for diminishing our ability to think, then it follows that augmenting our ability to think results in an increase in our vocabulary. Doug Engelbart always talks about augmenting existing capabilities while adding new ones. You could replace the word “capabilities” with “vocabulary,” and you would essentially be saying the same thing.    (LED)

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