Deterministic and Semi-deterministic Languages- or how I learned to love the bomb
All natural languages have a subjective part, and a objective part.
The subjective part is free-form and unpredictable. It is used in
literature to convey fictions, lies, exaggerations, whatever the
mind chooses to communicate.
The objective part is deterministic. It must conform to physical
reality. If you are instructing someone on the other side of a
telephone how to defuse a bomb under their seat, that aspect of
language that you use, must conform to physical reality. There
can be no ambiguity in what you say to communicate the instructions
on defusing the bomb if the desired physical outcome is to safely
This conformance to objective reality is in the form of determinism,
and such languages as computer languages are designed to be completely
deterministic and objective in terms of instructing the computer
to physically represent the desired outcome.
Other languages are largely deterministic but not quite so. For instance
radio signals are encoded to be deterministically received as much as
possible. That is, they are encoded to be received in high fidelity.
This encoding, or language, of the information to be communicated was
originally very poor and alot of noise was received with the message
sometimes making it ambiguous. So better methods of encoding were
developed to reduce that ambiguity and restore determinism.
Such methods as redundancy and error checking were employed and many
natural languages employ these ideas as well. Redundancy of reusing
characters in an alphabet, or synonyms, etc. Grammar and syntax are
the natural language's form of error checking.
Ultimately though, the deterministic or non-fictional portion of any
language must conform to physical reality. Fundamentally this requires
no ambiguity in the description of spatial-temporal events. If you
tell the person on the other side of the phone:
"Don't cut the red wire if a bird flies over your head, but cut the
red wire now !"
There is a certain ambiguity in this instruction (communication) that
may have disasterous results.
It soon became clear to many quantum theorists that language was not
well suited to what they were observing and spatial-temporal ambiguities
arose when they tried to linguistically describe those observations.
Many chalked it up to a deficiancy of natural languages and chose
to work strictly with mathematics, but they soon found out that mathematics
itself was a language and it too had interpretive problems when they
tried to map mathematics to physical reality. The words wave and particle
were no long useful as "things", they no longer had finite, bounded
and crisp definitions, so they made up a new word: "quantum" to call the
hybrid wave-particles. But that didn't end the problem.
Soon they found they had to give up words like "mass" and "length" as meaning
crisp specific things. And Einstein showed them a relativistic theory where
these words communicated different values to different observers. Even the
concept of "mass" lost its semantic meaning as being distinct from "energy".
The Schrodinger's Cat problem made it unclear whether "dead" or "alive"
were distinct words. And "quantum entanglement" make the idea of "here"
and "there" synonymous in a certain physical context.
Some physicists decided that this was more than a physics problem, it
was information itself that was at fault when it had to be conveyed by
physical means. The information had to obey physical rules. They saw
information as subjective and the physical carrier of that information
as objective, and this lead many physicists to jump ship and head towards a
"quantum consciousness" or communication theory (Schrodinger wrote books
on consciousness, Penrose and Deutsch too, Bohm dwelled on linguistics,
Bohr and Wheeler rejected subjectivism, Einstein and Bohr argued over
whether the quantum theory was correct, Feynman stuck with pragmatism
with a somewhat open mind, Heisenberg,... well the list goes on and on.
Lately the bomb problem has popped up in quantum theory and
the whole new field of "quantum non-demolition" treats the problem
of communicating completely deterministically without any ambiguity
using "the quantum Zeno effect" (a return to the ancient Greece
where they argued over many of the same issues of determinism and
crisp meanings,... over 2 millenia ago).
All of this rucus was over the problem of making clear definitions
and distinctions and ultimately many physicists decided the problem
was inherently the mind-body problem in wave-particle disguise.
McLuhan's: "the medium is the message" became a communications theory
paradigm for "the mind is the body" or the "the wave is the particle"
or the "carrier is the signal".
But probably Mcluhan didn't know too much about non-commutivity and
symmetry in physics or he would have been more concise, (or maybe he
did and I haven't read it yet). In any case, much of what he wrote
has analogs in physical communications theory not just published or
televised "macro" media; as opposed to the "micro" media physicists
Ultimately it all boils down to the effectiveness of any language in
describing events in that ultimately general concept of
space-time, and there are very general but well-defined laws
putting constraints on the objective portion of -any- language.
Mcluhan, Sapir-Whorf, Quine, Saussure all were onto the space-time
connection between the deterministic parts of all languages. They
all have to conform to the same rules when they deal with the
physical world. But one of those rules concerns complementary
functional domains (which is why the Fourier and similar mathematical
transforms are so important to physics and particulary thermodynamics
where the physical form of "information" is defined as opposed to
the non-objective [symbolic] form of "information" defined by Shannon.)
The Heisenberg uncertainty is really a functional transform uncertainty
relating complementary domains and linguistically, this is very isomorphic
to Quine's translation indetermincacy, but probably more easily can
be derived from Sapir-Whorf as a consequence of complementary
spatial vs. temporal grammars.
The deterministic parts of all languages obey quantum physical laws
and that is why dualism and yin/yang, ... arise throughout history
as concepts of just as much awe as mind-body or wave-particle;
mainly because the quantum laws themselves define the conditions
where all the subjective-objective metaphors meet.
Hmm, cause and effect. Didn't the McLuhan's warn of
the backlash, in their tetrad ?
About backlash, it tends to involve feedback and resonance;
of the kind found in waves; as in dialogue, potentially
creating great amounts of energy. In debate, on the otherhand,
closure is sought and all the energy is dumped into one monopoly.
That's great for storing energy, but not terribly useful in
a dynamic sense where the energy is released usually with
the intention to reorder things (relative motion being a
The fatal mistake of logicians, is in mistaking interference
effects (superpositions and analogs) for closure (Simpson's
The fatal mistake of analogicians, is in mistaking the lack of
closure, for immortality.
Kirk: All stop Mister Spock.
Spock: Engineering. All stop.
Scotty: Aye bridge. All stop.
Kirk: Mister Spock, did I or didn't command "All stop." ?
Spock: Yes Captain, your command was carried out.
Kirk: Then why did we just pass by our destination, Felinius 9 ?
Spock: Bridge to engineering.
Scotty: 'ngineering here.
Spock: Did you receive the command for "All stop."
Scotty: Yes Mista Spock. Th' 'ngines were sh't down j'st as the
Spock: Captain, your command was evidently carried out.
Kirk: Then will you explain why we didn't stop at Felinius 9 ?
Spock: According to Einstein's theory of relativity, we are at
rest as long as we are not accelerating. Your command was
therefore carried out. If we passed Felinious 9, it must
have been _they_ who were not stopped.
Kirk: Mister Spock. You know very well I meant to stop at
Felinius 9, and you should have specified that to engineering.
Spock: I am sorry Captain. But I can not specify that we stop
relative to Felinius 9. That would involve making an
analogical comparison between our rest state, and the rest
state of Felinius 9. Since analogy is inherently illogical,
I can not carry out such an order. Logic deals only with
Kirk: Well, this is really a pickle.
McCoy: It's that damn Vulcan logic, Jim. I told you we should have
diced him up and fed him to the Tribbles. He's become
too comfortable with paradoxes. You remember, Zeno..
Spock: Mister McCoy. I hardly see the logic ...
McCoy: Might-I-suggest a more _organic_ approach...
Kirk(whispering): Bones, if you had to go, you should have said
so before we...
McCoy: No! No! What I meant is that we should adapt to the problem.
Kirk: Right then. Mister Spock, reverse course back to Felinius 9.
But- aren't we going to have the same problem going back ?
Spock: Yes Captain. That would be a logical conclusion.
McCoy: Jimini Crickets ! Doesn't anyone see past their noses anymore.
Kirk: This is no time to argue Doctor, we have to get that
catfish souffl'e to the Felinius ambassador on time or
we're all in for alot of scratching and clawing.
McCoy: Look. It's really simple, just turn the damn ship around and
we'll deal with the problem when we get there. Adaptation !
Kirk (whispering): That doesn't sound very decisive Bones, and that
makes me look bad in front of the crew...
McCoy (whispering): Well, may-be you should have thought about that
Kirk: I've got it ! Well improvise and optimize. Mister Spock, when
I give the order to stop, you ask engineering to stop the engines.
Kirk (whispering) I've got him now Bone's, I'll immediately tell
him to reverse thrusters after I give the "All stop." order.
McCoy: But what about the over shoot ? Jim, I'm afraid we'll never
get there. We'll be stuck in this blasted Space forever.
Were going to run out of energy and all die.
Sulu: Captain, when I was in the academy, they taught us about this
thing called the Uncertainty Principles,...
Kirk: That's it ! We'll maximize our certainty in where we
don't want to be, and thereby minimize our uncertainty in
where we do want to be. Great work, Mister Sulu.
Spock: Isn't this just a plagiarism of Adam's Infinite Improbability
McCoy: Shut-up Spock. He's on the roll.
Kirk: Bring her about Mister Sulu. That away.
Sulu: Huh ?
Spock: Captain I resent your bypassing the normal chain of command...
And so the Ambassador received his souffl'e on time. And
Star Fleet; was spared the fuzzy fur balls of Felinius 9.