What is language? Precisely, how large is the state space of things that can be called “language”? What is the value of each point in this state space? Certainly, we’re constantly exploring new ways of communicating with each other, so our awareness of this space is increasing. But what will our conversations be like centuries from now? Let’s start by looking at some examples from the modern day.
Jazz improv musicians speak a complex language. The language of Jazz is formed of tones, rhythms, chords, and phrases, just as spoken English is formed of sounds, words, sentences, and paragraphs. They have intricate conversations during a performance, exchanging musical thoughts by repeating and modifying patterns.
How do they handle this immense level of tonal complexity without a moment to stop and think? The fact that this is possible shows the incredible malleability of the human mind. But just saying “the mind is amazing” doesn’t explain the result. What musicians actually do is set up expectations with their choice of notes, and then find ways to intentionally violate those expectations. This is very similar to how data compression algorithms work.
In much the same way, each musician has a model in their head of what the other musicians are likely to do. So instead of processing the entire complexity of the music, each person is just processing the unexpected parts, and constantly updating their model to create better expectations.
The process of making models such as this is generalizable to any two conscious agents communicating with each other. Each agent has their own model of the world, and of each other, and of themselves. The most efficient communication results from agreeing on what the other one knows, and omitting the obvious.
Imagine if you could learn almost everything about someone in the span of a short conversation. It would be very easy to find close, trusted friends. Maybe, through the use of advanced communication technology, future generations could have friendships even closer than anything imaginable today.
The path from here to there is far from obvious. But if we focus on being excellent communicators, and on finding agreement whenever possible, we will get there.