Monday, July 16, 2007


Natural Languages are Semantic Programming Languages. I don't intend this statement as a poetic metaphor. It is something I have believed since I began working with AI in my senior year in college. Allow me to make some further points before elaborating on this this thesis.

The brain clearly has a language of its own. Neuroscientists like Christof Koch are working hard to uncover this low level language. This quest is extremely important and its success will be even more revolutionary than the cracking of the genetic code. However, this work is largely a hardware problem or (and this time I am being poetic) a firmware problem.

Unlike Koch, I am interested in what is going on between the level of natural languages (what linguists study) and the level of cognition (what cognitive scientists study). Like Turing Completeness there is certainly a notion of Cognitive Completeness: What is the simplest system that can think any thought that a human brain can think? I believe that Cognitive Completeness can be approached to any level of approximation by a manmade physical device. At the moment, the computer is the best available candidate.

Given that we must work with computers, we must build a software model of cognition. I am an adherent of a model loosely based on the mathematics of vectors. Others work with models grounded in first order logic, fuzzy logic, genetic algorithms, neural networks, and Bayesian networks, to name a few.

Regardless of which model suits your fancy, you must ultimately answer the question of how humans comprehend written, spoken and signed language. This is the Natural Language Problem.

My equation, NL = SPL, is a hypothesis that Natural Languages are Semantic Programming Languages. This means that the brain does not simply translate NL into its low level representation of meaning. Rather, it translates NL into a low level executable language that runs, much like a computer simulation, to result in understanding. In the Semantic Vector Space model, execution is the transformation, subtraction, projection, and comparison of vectors in a semantic space.

Since it has already taken several paragraphs to layout my thesis, I will kindly ask the reader to wait until my next post for its defense.

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