Friday, September 28, 2012

I Think that Monkey's Trying to Tell Me Something

Recently, I was involved in an instant message exchange that went something like this:

Yeah, pretty good.

Now I'm no expert in communication. I botch things up a lot too. However, while others may leave stuff out, my verbose flag defaults to "on". I say too much.  So in the above case, I may have responded to Shim's similar question with: "Yes, I think so, but I'm in a meeting right now in conference room 1401 and I am unsure when it will be adjourned. Also, I brought my mountain bike. You may want to go ahead without me since you'll be on a road bike. Have fun, be safe."

Shim's probably right. My response might be overkill.

All forms of communication involves abstract thinking. It's amazing that the sounds that come from squeezing air through the larynx is understood as expressed thought. And it's so effortless. We do it without even trying.

Written communication is even more abstract.  It's mind boggling to think that the letters we clob together express our thoughts. Words are very powerful. One must be very careful in choosing the words that come out of their mouth. Otherwise, you may end up with a mouthful of teeth.

Lately, the trend has been moving even further away from whole words to simple scripting. For example, everyone knows what lol means. Our phones carry emoticons (smiley faces) on them. Apple's iPhone even has a full keyboard dedicated toward them called emoji.
Here's one such string of emoji recently sent from Leah to Lucas. See if you can figure it out before reading the solution:

Apparently, that string of emoji translates to "come join us at the Crescent Moon for Octoberfest beers after work."

Wow, that's right-brained!

When I asked Leah how Lucas responded, she showed me something like this:

Oh boy, that's TMI, Lucas. Translating that may be unsafe for work.

So basically, it's come to this:

The Rise and Fall of Communication 
by Wholesome Steel-Cut Goodness

It all started with squawking noises. Think Kubrick's 2001 A Space Oddessy:

Over time, the apes refined their nonverbal communication skills. Body language and simple gesturing evolved from the squawking. Language and the oral tradition followed. Next came the cave drawings, the pictographs and hieroglyphics. These eventually morphed into abstract letters and words. Finally, after eons, the Kings James Bible was expressed, marking the high-point of human culture.

But since then, it's been a downward spiral. I'm sorry to say it, but humanity's heading toward a second dark ages. See for yourself: the language used to express the great works of literature has been eroding. In place of William Shakespeare's Hamlet is a 140 character Twitter block. For Tolstoy or Fitzgerald? How about Facebook's "like" symbol?

Soon it will all be over but the shouting.

Until then, I'll be brushing up on my emoji. Here's one for my buddy Shim: