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Brought up Apr 30, 2010

Most Important tech advances #12: Speech

All animals communicate in some way with each other and other animals they encounter. When a dog feels threatened they growl in warning, when a cat wants attention, they rub against your leg. However, the ability to speak and the languages we have created have allowed us to refine communication to a level that allows us to express incredibly complex ideas and have them understood by other people.

Imagine a world without speech for a moment. How would our species even survive? How would we explain to our children that the reason they want to stay away from fire is because it will burn them? Admitted, some of the things we learn would be learned through experience, but because we can speak and explain experiences we have had with others, this allows us all to learn something from one another.

The reason I have speech only ranked at number 12 is because while it has enabled us to become very competitive in the world, there is still no single unifying language. This causes a lot of problems whenever people who use different languages come together. Words express ideas, and often the word used expresses a particular cultures idea. Love is a great example of this. For those of us who are of European descent love is the subject of romance. However, there are languages that do not even have a word for love.

It may be that eventually there will be one single language used by everyone on the planet. However, I seriously doubt that there will ever be a time when only one language is spoken. In fact I hope this is the case because language is unique to culture, and those languages have developed in order to express often unique concepts. It would be sad to lose those unique view points.


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