After Complexity, a novel (?), Chapter 1

The Three Prophets 


April 28, 2020

International Neurocomputing and Linguistics Conference

Hollywood Beach, Okinawa, Japan 

Joseph had placed the hermit crab on the palm of his hand and was waiting for it to poke its head out of the shell. The other two children, Kai and Emma were crouched down next to Joseph. The water rolled up the beach and washed across their feet, but the children did not move. Kai reached out and snatched the shell off of Joseph’s hand. Joseph was about to smack Kai in the head for taking his shell, but he stopped when Kai placed the shell in front of his lips, rounded his mouth into a small o-shape and began to blow on the opening of the shell. Slowly, the crab pulled itself out and showed itself to the world, Its antenna popped out like two tiny flowers. The children collected handfuls of hermit crabs, softly blowing them into bloom. Emma pointed out that the color of each crab was slightly different, the smallest crabs almost the same color as the sand, but the larger the crab, the more colorful it was, tinged with blues and purples. Joseph drew three large circles in the sand and began to place the crabs in rings based on color. 

Sitting at a table under and umbrella a short distance away, three adults clinked beer glasses and congratulated each other. They discussed the kind of things that adults sometimes believe are of great importance: the small size of the waterproof earbuds which the children wore, the algorithms which had allowed the AI to compare and contrast millions of conversations as it taught itself how languages worked, the flexibility of the system which clearly allowed for it to adapt to the cadence and implied meaning found in the speech of children.  Until the sun was dropping, impossibly large and orange into the sea, the adults drank and watched their children play, and talked about the illusion of linguistic rules born out of the complex dynamic system which is communication; they toasted again to a world in which the processing power of working memory needed for understanding languages would be passed off to their translation AI; and like most adults, they failed to notice even the smallest things of real importance while Joseph, Kai and Emma’s eyes grew wider as each phrase from the earbuds whispered the world they were sharing into being.

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