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So far, we've established that words alone are not good communication tools. To communicate effectively, we need logic. But as you're about to see, humans are not always that great at making and understanding logical statements. In all honesty, we're terrible at logic. But we've invented a tool that works solely based on logic we can turn to for help. The computer. This of course, begs the question if we shouldn't all start thinking and communicating logically like computers.
Wouldn't the world be a better place with logic as the basis for all communication? The answer to that is a resounding no. While logic has an important place in communication, it is not the only factor. Consider this famous example in which a wife gives her logical husband instructions for a trip to the grocer. The wife asks, can you pick up a carton of milk? And if they have eggs, get six. Upon returning, the wife finds that the husband has bought six cartons of milk.
And she asks, why did you get six cartons of milk? The husband answers, because they had eggs. Applying pure logic or thinking like a computer, the husband was right in picking up six cartons of milk. The statement clearly says to pick up six cartons of milk if the store has eggs. But that's not the intended message from the wife, nor is it a reasonable interpretation of her request. To simplify communication, humans employ implied reference.
Things left unsaid or left between the lines. While this is risky behavior that can lead to some spectacular misunderstandings, it is more often than not a more effective way of communicating. And this type of implied reference is not restricted to words and sentences. It can be non-verbal, pointing, nodding, even moving your eyes quickly, communicating a reference without ever stating it out loud. And depending on the relationship between the two parties, or even recent or immediate history, what is left unsaid, can have a dramatic impact on the interpretation and whether the communication is successful.
So, there's a clear difference between human communication and computer logic. Humans mix logic with implied reference and context to interpret and understand the meaning of statements. Computers use formal logic to prove the validity of arguments, whether they are logically true or false. This is because, unlike humans, computers cannot think outside of the box. They can only judge a statement based on what is presented to them. So while the human would tell you the statement, the moon is made of cheese, is categorically false, a computer would only be able to tell you that the statement is logically valid.
To deem it unsound, you'd have to provide the computer with the extra fact that the moon is, in fact, not made of cheese. To put it simply, what separates us from our computers, is that humans apply meaning and interpretation to their often logically invalid statements, while computers, can tell you without error whether a statement is valid without ever understanding the meaning of that statement.
The core idea of logic is to create a system in which communication is clear, precise, and unambiguous, which is (or at least should be) the goal of any website or other communication.
- How humans communicate
- Comparing human and computer communication
- Speaking logically
- Using logical arguments
- Understanding the limits of computer logic
- Formatting information for humans
- Communicating with logic