‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
– Alice in Wonderland
I’m beginning to think Korzybski was right. Most of our human troubles are caused by an inadequate language, and the failure to truly internalize the subjectivity of our perceptions.
We think we use a single language, but we don’t. Every one of us uses the language to mean subtly different things, and yet we assume, when we hear someone else speak, that they mean exactly what we would have meant had we said the same words. And they make precisely the same mistake in interpreting our response, and so on and so forth and pretty soon we are lobbing brickbats and thermonuclear warheads at each other.
I envy the Conjoiners in Alastair Reynold’s novels. They broke the biggest barrier of all – the limit that language places on human cooperation by imposing innaccurate maps on our consciousness.