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adrift in the middling latitudes

By contrast, I investigate how successful communication systems can emerge without innate or transferable meanings, and show that this is dependent on the agents developing highly synchronized conceptual systems.

ex abstract, Andrew D. M. Smith, Intelligent Meaning Creation in a Clumpy World Helps Communication, in Artificial Life 9 (2003): 175-190

Brings to mind my parable of a castaway on a desert island who, for some reason that I’ve not bothered to work out, can communicate with another (possibly on another island) only by means of a telegraphic code dictionary — a cotton code, let’s say — and a cable, wireless or optical telegraph setup. Over years, their codewords would take on new complexions, nuances, significances: to the point where a code/phrase pair like Latitude / We can sell to arrive, or Illicit / Barely low middling might come to signify the most intimate ideas and endearments, known to these two alone.

The nature of that evolution might depend on whether the two — or their respective islands — were in eyesight of each other, or known to be 200 leagues distant. Or perhaps the premise needs changing: not stranded castaways, but rather two cable clerks communicating their respective firms’ offers and orders, day after day, whilst developing a parallel system of meaning not entertained in their printed vocabularies.

Examples from Lehman Bros. Telegraphic Cypher Code (1875).

18 September 2011
tags: cotton codes