[unrev-II] Re: Towards an atomic data structure.

From: Henry van Eyken (vaneyken@sympatico.ca)
Date: Thu Apr 27 2000 - 11:33:56 PDT

  • Next message: Lee Iverson: "[unrev-II] Use case scenarios for OSS development"

    Or "Can a DKR bridle unbridable thought?"
    Or "Loom of frustration."
    Or "Re: Knowledge representation."
    Or "Should I really inflict this piece on anyone?"

    Wednesday morning, April 26. -- I just began reading this thread and almost
    immediately something began to revolt in me. And yet, I must (as indeed I do)
    respect the opinions of people who have spent much of their lives informing
    themselves in the best tradition of educated society.

    Before moving on to the next paragraph, let's share the observation that my
    opening sentence contains, contrary to the dogma of "one paragraph, one notion,"
    at least eight nodes of information, i.q. I; just; "began"; "to read"; "almost
    immediately"; "something"; "to revolt"; "in me" -- a breakdown which, to be
    sure, is just one way of splitting the atomic ideal. And I haven't yet completed
    the paragraph. Also observe that this very last sentence, just written, implies
    a node of information that is hidden right after the word "completed." That
    implied node of information is the action to which the noun "paragraph" was
    subjected to. (Tiresome, am I not?)

    Eric's first post on the subject matter of atomization of language, or thought
    .... Oh, I must stop again. There mostly does not seem to be a one-to-one
    relationship between the components (free radicals, atoms, molecules, crystals,
    etc.) of thought and the components of language. Language might be seen as a
    conduit of thought, and, like my back-country telephone line, a most important,
    but far from a perfect conduit. Take. for example, the word "mankind" which,
    when taken out of context, may well signal an antifeminist attitude. "Mankind,"
    therefore," is an instance where we find at least two meanings within a single
    word. Isotopes, anybody?

    What upset me immediately is the top-down approach embodied by the class
    object-oriented terminology. As applied to text (and maybe to the potential of
    computing as well), I question the usefulness of a Simon-pure object-oriented
    approach. A top-down approach, it seems to me, is bridling the unbridable, a
    tool that communicates a hard-to-discipline melange of logical order and
    emotions, of what wells from the conscious and the levels of the
    less-than-conscious. Let me show my concern by trying to recapture some of the
    fleeting thoughts that went through my mind when reading the paragraphs under
    the heading "Text Nodes."

    I quote: The fundamental unit of a DKR is an item of information. Since the
    ideal in writing is to have "one idea per paragraph", an "information node" can
    be thought of as a paragraph of text. Headings stand apart from other text, as
    well, so a heading is a special (short) paragraph, or information node.

    The first sentence quoted is a postulate that probably won't stand the test of
    scrutiny. The second sentence turns the tables on the postulate; and that quite
    aside from the stated ideal in writing. Beaudelaire, Joyce, Conrad, Schlink are
    but some of the people whose celebrated works are what they are because their
    ideal is to stuff in a little extra. As do children and salesmen, and, well,
    don't we all? As for headings being nodes of information, may I invite you back
    to the smorgasbord of headings at the beginning of this piece. Which one best
    conveys what I am writing about?

    At this point, I ought to realize that I am reading Eric's post out of (his)
    context and putting it into mine. In other words, the meaning of text is subject
    to environmental influence. (Geez, I think I could expand that last sentence
    into a book.) I also understand that precisely because of this problem, language
    must contain something that is not just "purely informational." It must contain
    a funnel of words to guide the reader or listener coming in from the cold as
    quickly as possible to the point the emitter is trying to make. That funnel of
    words has been called redundancy. I understand from having read a couple of
    atoms from Shannon and Wheeler that English is about 30 percent redundant;
    redundant, that is, from the point of view of its central messages, but an
    essential redundancy to guide the innocent to the nectar of an attempted

    How then, with these notions in my mind, may I feel compelled to keep on
    reading? But I continued anyway, forcing myself.

    Quoting: Node behaviors are defined in a class (object template). Every text
    node must contain an attribution -- a pointer to the author, or an identifying
    string. A copy of that node may be edited, which suggests the need for a split
    operation, for example. After node is split into one or more fragments, and edit
    operation could replace some fragments or insert new ones that have a different
    author. Some of the operations appropriate to a node might therefore include
    split, delete, replace, and insert.

    My immediate problem, after blindly sliding through the first sentence (because
    it lacks the, for me, prerequisite redundancy), is "a pointer to the author."
    Individual authorship, of course, is a concept that belongs to the class
    "culture." Ancient Greek culture did not recognize this kind of authorship.
    Homer rhapsodized, literally meaning that he stitched together. He stitched
    descriptions that were fragments of other tales to create his tale. He then
    added rhyme to reason for staunching his memory. (No art of poetry for him; just
    plain craftmanship.) A good thing that Eric added "or an identifying string."

    Luck has it that I stayed the course for at this point I find Eric introducing
    ideas that capture my attention. I might quickly add to his list of editing
    operations on a node of information: re-emote and recontextualize (ain't she
    sweet?). It is well to remember that re-emoting may change "objective meaning"
    (??) totally. A simple re-ordering of wordsmay efffect this. "Just so," you may
    think, whereas the editor conscienciously meant to be oh "so just."

    At this point, my mind fleetingly dwells on translation. How simple would it be
    to translate from one language into another if language could be clearly
    atomized. ("How simple would it be," I wrote. Not "How simple it would be.")

    At this point, I must realize, I think, that the kind of text Eric writes about
    (no, I didn't say wrote!) is not natural language, not even a transcript of
    natural thoughts. He is writing about formalized transcripts of some sort of
    culturally bridled thoughts. Among these are the, supposedly redundancy-free
    languages of mathematics and computer programming. And, perhaps, of zealots, who
    tend to consider their ethics so purified from redundancy as to justify an
    attitude of "my way or no way."

    Languages of scientific and technological cultures might be less redundant than
    natural language -- and easier to translate. The disciplined listener needs only
    half the words required by an undisciplined one, Which brings up a concern one
    should have with public DKRs.

    Quoting: Note that when the node is split, two objects exist where one did
    before. Every node must therefore be capable of being the root of a subtree.
    Although it may start out life as a simple node that contains or points to an
    item of text, it must also be capable of pointing to a list of text elements.
    (That list might also include markup elements, like HTML bold tags: <b>.) Since
    each item in that list may itself point to a list of subitems, the resulting
    structure is a tree.

    Interesting indeed. At one time, I dwelled on the use of adjectives as a means
    of splitting a node and on adverbs as means of further modulation. I mentally
    compared their use to the words we have for color. The little red engine that
    could. Blue moon. But primary colors don't suffice beyond childhood. Orangy,
    brown-gray become necessary additions. For the artist we have special
    chromatograms. For scientists we have that concretized abstraction of
    vibrational frequencies. Serving roles not unlike adjectives are hyphens, and I
    have wondered whether we might introduce for greater expressive precision a more
    potent hyphen by borrowing the equal sign, e.g. "a brown=gray-colored object"
    would make a somewhat more precise statement than "a brown-grayish object" once
    propagated by the discerning.

    And at this point, I must ask myself, what is the best use of my time and how
    much may I impose on others? And how just am I to the author who began this
    thread, unquestionably a man one cannot but hold in high esteem?

    I feel so frustrated.

    Better go outdours for some fresh air. With oxygen of a particularly refreshing
    molecular form.

    Ever so diatomic in vibrational embrace.


    P.S. I wrote this yesterday morning and decided not to put it on the forum.
    Until I read Jack Park's piece a moment ago. Funny how different our two pieces
    are, and still so very much the same. That's language for you.

    Jack Park wrote about
    Knowledge Representation (wasRe: [unrev-II] Jack Park's "10 Step" Program):

    High rates giving you headaches? The 0% APR Introductory Rate from
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