Saturday, May 21, 2011

Political Rheoric

Steven Pinker is the man.


On top of being the man, he is also a professor of psychology at Harvard College, and a linguist. He has also been on The Colbert Report. Multiple times. I was going to hold off writing about him but I recently read an article Douglas Adams (author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy) wrote over ten years ago entitled How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love The Internet. In the article, where he writes concerning people who thought the Internet was just a fad, he mentions Steven Pinker. Today it might be a bore to read because it is redundant about how the Internet has turned out.

"Another problem with the net is that it’s still ‘technology’, and ‘technology’, as the computer scientist Bran Ferren memorably defined it, is ‘stuff that doesn’t work yet.’ We no longer think of chairs as technology, we just think of them as chairs. But there was a time when we hadn’t worked out how many legs chairs should have, how tall they should be, and they would often ‘crash’ when we tried to use them. Before long, computers will be as trivial and plentiful as chairs (and a couple of decades or so after that, as sheets of paper or grains of sand) and we will cease to be aware of the things. In fact I’m sure we will look back on this last decade and wonder how we could ever have mistaken what we were doing with them for ‘productivity.’
But the biggest problem is that we are still the first generation of users, and for all that we may have invented the net, we still don’t really get it. In ‘The Language Instinct’, Stephen Pinker explains the generational difference between pidgin and creole languages. A pidgin language is what you get when you put together a bunch of people – typically slaves – who have already grown up with their own language but don’t know each others’. They manage to cobble together a rough and ready lingo made up of bits of each. It lets them get on with things, but has almost no grammatical structure at all.
However, the first generation of children born to the community takes these fractured lumps of language and transforms them into something new, with a rich and organic grammar and vocabulary, which is what we call a Creole. Grammar is just a natural function of children’s brains, and they apply it to whatever they find."

Douglas Adams Playing With Pink Floyd on His 42nd Birthday.

Why I'm writing about Dr. Pinker today is because I want to post one of my favorite videos of him. It is about how politicians use empty rhetoric in order to get their messages across because they do not want to tick anyone off. At the same time we the voters push the candidates into a corner because we don't want them to support anything we are against. Check out the video:

I for one blame the two party system. If you're at all interested in psycholinguistics, reading any book by Steven Pinker is a must, and used copies go for a few bucks.

(revised 11/25/2012)


  1. what a fascinating read, such an interesting subject.
    On a side note, Douglas Adams and Pink Floyd? Now that is a cool combination!

  2. Douglas Adams jamming with Pink Floyd? Cool

  3. Internet is the whole future people , embrace it !

  4. whoa that was actually really interesting to read