Sunday, August 31, 2008

Silence was Golden

Does a golden voice trump a golden silence? As a teenager I admired silent people. I presumed the most intelligent strangers on my bus ride were those profoundly silent. They appeared somehow mysteriously wise, and their silence presented no chance to disprove that. Over the years my views evolved to include "articulate expression" as a marker of intelligence, specially if the content being articulated deserved a passing grade.

As of late I am recycling these early opinions, albeit in more refined way. It is not that speakers do not think, but I am convinced that people cannot think while they speak. It is no secret that humans communicate half-duplex, that is, we cannot speak and listen at the same time, as our speech system needs it own auditory feedback for clear articulation.  It is no secret because my friend Figolo told me. And Figolo was a silent kind of friend in his teens, so he must be right. 

People can certainly multitask by thinking while listening, but I argue that thinking while speaking is much more rare. Maybe speaking ties up some neural resources used for thinking, and the proof is the infamous Teleprompter. Why would a top-notch world class leader running for the highest office need to read his speech, namely his thoughts and his message, from a Teleprompter instead of expressing them straight from the brain?

I am not sure if the leaders we elect will listen nor think the day after, but we can certainly pick people that can speak sans teleprompters, notes,  or speech writers.  Organic certification for speakers, kind of, and I will pay more for organic.

Interestingly communicating computers can listen, speak, and think at the same time. And in general, thinking while listening is harder for computers than it is thinking while speaking. If we cannot get rid of teleprompters maybe we should think about electing computers instead of these half-duplex leaders we get.

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