# Understanding Reality

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You haven't said anything new (yet).

Yes, you can (of course) transcribe the words differently by spelling/representing the word "cow" with the symbol "1" and the word car with the symbol 39. But I don't know what you hope to acheive with this.

My point being that the representations themselves are absolutely arbitrary!

You say this as if it were a new or surprising insight. (Or is there another reason for the exclamation mark?)

and the two thoughts, "This is a cow!" and "That car went by." could then be represented by

(223,6094,16,6094,2237,6094,1,242) and (756,6094,39,6094,256,6094,99,12)

Not sure why you feel it is necessary to have a representation for the spaces. These rarely (if ever) have any semantic content even in written language. (Outside of computer programming.)

It follows that, if one comprehended the language (and was capable of following and/or constructing a dictionary), absolutely any thought, in the language of interest, could be represented by a fixed expression of the linear form of a finite collection of such indices where each and every index was specified by the required dictionary.

So representing / listing the words (representations) and the concepts they refer to is only a small part of the problem of language.

I have already mentioned that this ignores grammar. So, as you say, you still need to understand the language in order to make use of the list of indices. (This is getting into the problems with Searle's "Chinese Room" argument.) So perhaps you could go a bit further in explaining the purpose / benefit of convert words to indices?

The other problem is that both these sentences contain anaphoric references. Understanding what is referred to by pronouns such as "this" is a big problem in linguistics and automatic speech recognition. It depends a lot on (possibly unspoken) context and previous utterances.

Edited by Strange

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@strange excellent post and great jpeg (once I had translated it). But surely "contextually indicated deixis" is a tautology? I ask for honest reasons not as a dig - I had to look it up

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I can't see what you are trying to say because your ego keeps getting in the way.

How often does that get in the way of understanding? +1

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@strange excellent post and great jpeg (once I had translated it). But surely "contextually indicated deixis" is a tautology? I ask for honest reasons not as a dig - I had to look it up

I think you are correct. But part of the humour (to my mind) comes from the verbosity of the question and the succinctness of the answer.

p.s. I suggest googling "linguistic llama"; there are plenty more terrible linguistics jokes ...

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Apparently no one here can comprehend my post. Everyone confuses "representation" with what is being represented. They are very different concepts!

Unfortunately Dr. Richard, you are really bad at explaining you're ideas. I don't mean to insult you (well... maybe just a little for being a dick), but it took 3 pages of posts for you to finally tell us that you have an idea where you relate numbers to words, or "representations of a language" as you like to call it, that allow you to provide a key or "index" to a dictionary of definitions. As Strange has clearly stated, this is nothing new and is definitely an incomplete system for translating one language to another.

You haven't said anything new (yet).

...

So representing / listing the words (representations) and the concepts they refer to is only a small part of the problem of language.

I have already mentioned that this ignores grammar. So, as you say, you still need to understand the language in order to make use of the list of indices. (This is getting into the problems with Searle's "Chinese Room" argument.) So perhaps you could go a bit further in explaining the purpose / benefit of convert words to indices?

The other problem is that both these sentences contain anaphoric references. Understanding what is referred to by pronouns such as "this" is a big problem in linguistics and automatic speech recognition. It depends a lot on (possibly unspoken) context and previous utterances.

Even if the translation of a language into another is not what you intended, the software that runs any online dictionary surely already does what you are implying. As a software engineer, I would create a Dictionary<string, string> Definitions {get;set;} property that relates a word to it's definition or description of how it's used in the language such as the articles a, an and the in the English language. Because all computers work entirely using numbers, the characters or symbols from any language can be and most likely are defined by Unicode, which is a numerical system that allows a computer to display words using the font that provides the symbols for a particular language. However, that alone isn't enough to translate from one language to another. Furthermore, how does assigning numbers to words help you understand reality? When most people talk about understanding reality, they are referring to physics. Language is nothing more than a way of recording, processing, and sharing information where understanding reality requires application of the scientific method. So, the title of this thread is highly misleading.

Edited by Daedalus
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Daedalus, you once again totally fail to comprehend what I am saying. You repeat that, "as Strange has clearly stated, this is nothing new and is definitely an incomplete system for translating one language to another." You apparently can't comprehend that I have utterly no interest in translating anything. All I want is to get the readers to admit that absolutely any thought in any language can be represented by the expression $(x_1, x_2, \cdots,x_i , \cdots , x_n)$.

In fact, you apparently agree with me. In your post you say.

"Because all computers work entirely using numbers, the characters or symbols from any language can be and most likely are defined by Unicode, which is a numerical system that allows a computer to display words using the font that provides the symbols for a particular language." Yes, it is just another language. In fact even secret codes can be seen as "secret" languages. Those facts have nothing to do with being able to translate that code into something "you" understand. In fact, secrete codes are designed to make the communication as difficult as possible to understand.

But then you say, "However, that alone isn't enough to translate from one language to another." That is something you and Strange (and perhaps most all the other readers here) are interested in. That is what you want to talk about but it has absolutely nothing to do with what I want to talk about.

How does assigning numbers to words help one understand reality? That I will explain to you if you will agree that absolutely any thought in any language can be represented by the expression $(x_1, x_2, \cdots,x_i , \cdots , x_n)$.

That is my opening step of the argument I am trying to present. All I want from the reader is that they accept that as a fact and stop bringing up all these other issues they want to talk about.

The second step of my argument is fact that "understanding" a communication can be seen as a phenomena which occurs between two communicating individuals which can be defined by the probability the the "listening" individual knows the "truth" the other individual places on the specific thoughts being communicated.

Learning the language is a consequence of many communications. Understanding only begins when issues being communicated begin to be understood by the relevant communicators. If the readers can comprehend the truth of these two assertions, I will show that some very interesting consequences logically follow. Consequences which have absolutely nothing to do with what is communicated but none the less have some very important consequences on what can be understood.

I am asserting that "understanding" any thought may be represented by the expression $P(x_1, x_2, \cdots,x_i , \cdots , x_n)$ where "P" is the probability the thought $(x_1, x_2, \cdots,x_i , \cdots , x_n)$ is taken to be true.

Is anyone here interested in the issue I am presenting? If you are, please start another thread where the issues under discussion are the two "facts" I have brought up. This thread contains so much trash outside my interests that everything I say is totally buried.

Thank you --- Dr Dick

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...

The second step of my argument is fact that "understanding" a communication can be seen as a phenomena which occurs between two communicating individuals which can be defined by the probability the the "listening" individual knows the "truth" the other individual places on the specific thoughts being communicated.

...

Are there not multiple scenarios in which the listener's and communicator's credence levels are identical but the presence of a third party and more importantly the third party's knowledge/expected credence (ie expected by Listener & Communicator) are the crucial factor?

Thus the $Message^{\ Communicator}_{\ Listener}(x_1, x_2, P_{third\ party}\left(x_1,x_2,...\ x_n\right) , \cdots,x_i , \cdots , x_n)$ is actually contingent on a probability.

There is nothing in the communication (ie that would be represented by x1,x2 etc) which deals with the third party's expected credence but it may completely alter the import of the message.

To give a real world example: C makes a statement which L knows to be false and which C already knows L knows to be false. In the presence of a third party T this statement whilst not changing in any form can mean multiple things; the meanings are all contingent on the shared and expected shared credence of T ie if T also knows the falsehood then it is a shared falsity, but if it is expected that T is unaware of the falsehood then it is a shibboleth between C and L excluding and differentiating T.

If you are happy that probabilities of third party credence can form the message then I agree - but otherwise no.

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@ Doctor Dick - I've tried to give you a chance and follow what you are failing to convey to us (which is ironic, since you're suggesting an improvement to the clarity of language), but I cannot shake the thought that you are, in essence, trying to introduce another language. In order to learn the symbols you are trying to push, you would need to understand the meaning behind them, which is exactly how language works. You have not shown one single benefit of ''your way''. Give a working and concise example. The onus is on you to prove your point, not on us to ''try to undestand it with no explanation.''

I would comment that the fact that thought in any known language representation may be transformed into specific points on a computer screen (or in a printed book for that matter) seems to pretty well defend my assertion

As can words. Again, you have not explained how your method would be different than merely using a language the traditional way. What would it achieve? Give an example of where it would be clearer than if we were to use English.

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Doctordick, no one is disagreeing that any meaning that can be expressed through human language can also be represented using a sequence of numbers if you want to so represent it.

We're just waiting to hear why this matters.

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Yes, we are all on tenterhooks here.

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Imatfaal, it appears that you want to bring in a third party into this "communication"! That brings in an assumption which you have apparently not considered. I start with one individual and then discuss information being presented (what I call communication) to that individual without making any assumptions as to where that communication comes from. That is, I have defined the individual who is trying to comprehend (think "learn the language") the meanings of the communications he is attempting to understand). I have made no definition of the source of that communication. It could be a party similar to himself (of course, before he learns anything, he can have no concept of what he actual is as he has learned no concepts) or that source could consist of a number of different entities. If you don't leave the issue open, you are making unjustified assumptions.

And, Lord Antares, I am in no way proposing any improvement to the clarity of language at all. What I am setting forth is a means of representing a language which makes absolutely no presumptions as to the actual structure of that language. I have defined a thought to be represented by a collection of underlying concepts, each concept being represented by a different numerical label. The first issue of significance is that the actual number of concepts standing behind the communicated thought can not be infinite. If it were infinite, communication could not exist. In a sense, I am using English as numbers are indeed a collection of concepts defined under "English".

More important is my definition of "understanding" as being able to come up with the probability that the communicator (the source of the thought) believes it is a valid truth. If anyone here finds fault with that definition please give me an example of an understood communication where the receiver has utterly no knowledge of the truth presumed by the source of that communication.

If the reader accepts the two issues I have just presented as facts then they should take the trouble to read my post (on this thread) #32 made on 23 May 2017 at 2:58 PM. If you can find a fault in that post, please explicitly explain the fault you have found.

Thank you --- Dr Dick

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If you have no idea what the source of a communication is, I'm not sure you could determine even a rough probability of the source of that communication believing that it is true.

I think it is also possible to come up with a probability of the source of a communication believing their statement to be true without having understood it, either through some degree of meta-analysis of the communication or because I have misunderstood the communication and come up with a probability based on that misunderstanding.

Edit: On further reflection, and reviewing your previous post, I think that my second concern is the more important.

You'be determined a potentially true relationship that someone who understands a communication will place some probability on that communication being true. I could quibble a bit here, but I'm willing to go with that as a true statement since I think you could nail down some definitions a bit more specifically in a way that makes it true.

However, that is a "If A then B" relationship, where A is "understanding" and B is "determining the truth probability."

In order to define understanding as determining the truth probability, you need a "If B then A" relationship as well, and I don't think that holds up as well as the former argument does.

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How does assigning numbers to words help one understand reality? That I will explain to you if you will agree that absolutely any thought in any language can be represented by the expression $(x_1, x_2, \cdots,x_i , \cdots , x_n)$.

I am not convinced that any "thought" can be expressed like that. Certainly any sentence (or a random collection of words) can be represented by a list of numbers. But maybe that is all you mean.

The second step of my argument is fact that "understanding" a communication can be seen as a phenomena which occurs between two communicating individuals which can be defined by the probability the the "listening" individual knows the "truth" the other individual places on the specific thoughts being communicated.

...

I am asserting that "understanding" any thought may be represented by the expression $P(x_1, x_2, \cdots,x_i , \cdots , x_n)$ where "P" is the probability the thought $(x_1, x_2, \cdots,x_i , \cdots , x_n)$ is taken to be true.

I'm not sure what you mean by the word "truth", especially as you put it in scare quotes. Communication does not require the statement to be true, it does not require either individual to believe the statement is true. The message could be a question, which does not have a truth value.

So could you expand on what you mean by "truth" in this context?

What I am setting forth is a means of representing a language which makes absolutely no presumptions as to the actual structure of that language.

I am not sure this is true. For example, your list of number (indices) must retain the order of the original list of words. And the receiver must understand the grammar of the language (and probably a lot of other context) in order to extract meaning from from the list of numbers. In other words, the receiver must fully understand the structure of the language in order to make use of your system.

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I am not convinced that any "thought" can be expressed like that. Certainly any sentence (or a random collection of words) can be represented by a list of numbers. But maybe that is all you mean.

I'm not sure what you mean by the word "truth", especially as you put it in scare quotes. Communication does not require the statement to be true, it does not require either individual to believe the statement is true. The message could be a question, which does not have a truth value.

So could you expand on what you mean by "truth" in this context?

I am not sure this is true. For example, your list of number (indices) must retain the order of the original list of words. And the receiver must understand the grammar of the language (and probably a lot of other context) in order to extract meaning from from the list of numbers. In other words, the receiver must fully understand the structure of the language in order to make use of your system.

I'm not sure I agree. I mean, yes, if you use a simple substitution cipher replacing words with numbers, this is true. But you don't strictly have to do it that way. You could have separate index numbers cover concepts that would all be grouped into a single word in English, and have different index numbers depending on context. Word order isn't strictly necessary as a carrier of meaning if you embed the syntactic meaning within the particular number itself, the way that languages with a case system tend to have more flexible word orders than English because the order doesn't convey the same semantic information.

You'd need an ungodly number of variations on a single theme and I'm not sure that it is at all possible to pull off on a practical level let alone to actually use such a system if it could be created, but any thought which could feasibly be accurately written down, even if it required an entire book and multiple languages to accurately describe all of the nuance in the thought, could be ascribed an index number.

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I'm not sure I agree. I mean, yes, if you use a simple substitution cipher replacing words with numbers, this is true.

Which seems to be what Dick is suggesting.

But you don't strictly have to do it that way. You could have separate index numbers cover concepts that would all be grouped into a single word in English, and have different index numbers depending on context.

So "dog" would have different index numbers for when it was a species of canid, when it referred to the adult male of that species, when it referred to a poor quality of merchandise, when it meant an unattractive person, when it was used as a verb meaning to follow, and all the other possible meanings.

Then each of those nouns would need two numbers (in English) for when it was the subject or the object of a sentence. And another when it was neither. (No, make that six to allow for singular or plural.) And in other languages these could be multiplied by much larger factors for all the different cases.

And the various verbal meanings would need different values for transitive vs intransitive, tense, mode, voice, and all the other possible modifications that can be made to a verbal form.

Added to that, the role of some words can be ambiguous in many cases so you might have a choice of two representations with no way of deciding which was intended.

I don't know if that is what Dick intended (or if he will just complain about us introducing yet more extraneous ideas into his thread) but if so he did not explain it well.

I am not sure it is possible because, for example, how would it handle recursion where an entire sentence can become the subject or object of another sentence. You would need some way of marking that sublist with its grammatical function.

And I just don't think that the grammar of natural languages can be codified like that. (Look at all the problems with machine translation, etc.)

Edited by Strange
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You could have multiple versions of verbs to demarcate their presence in sub-clauses. You'd need to generate the numbers algorithmically to have anything approaching usability since you could have infinite recursion in a sentence if you wanted to, but something as simple as tacking on five zeroes to the end of a number and then adding the value for whatever nested position in the sentence that verb occupies could work if you then disallow five zeroes in a row from appearing in any indexed numbers outside that context. You'd need to do the same for every version of every noun though in order to maintain its association with the correct verb in the sentence.

Haning it algorithmically like that would allow you to generate new indices on the fly for edge cases like that kind of really deep recursion, though.

And again, I'm not saying that this is actually practical, which is a requirement for any machine translation solution. I'm operating in a purely "in principle, given infinite time" standpoint here.

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OK. Well, lets see which version of arithmetisation Dick means.

And then what the claimed consequences are ...

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I am not sure this is true. For example, your list of number (indices) must retain the order of the original list of words. And the receiver must understand the grammar of the language (and probably a lot of other context) in order to extract meaning from from the list of numbers. In other words, the receiver must fully understand the structure of the language in order to make use of your system.

Exactly this. This is what I'm talking about. It proposes nothing of new value, to my knowledge.

/cut

You still haven't replied to me asking for examples of this. It would help your case (or, it is actually neccessary to make your case). Give a working example of when and how this would be more useful than using conventional language.

So "dog" would have different index numbers for when it was a species of canid, when it referred to the adult male of that species, when it referred to a poor quality of merchandise, when it meant an unattractive person, when it was used as a verb meaning to follow, and all the other possible meanings.

This is true for the English language specifically. For example, when you say a noun in Croatian, you can infer the gender, the context, whether the noun is the subject or the object, what context it is being talked about in and you can sometimes even infer what the rest of the sentence will say about the noun. So, again, nothing new is being proposed.

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Imatfaal, it appears that you want to bring in a third party into this "communication"! That brings in an assumption which you have apparently not considered. I start with one individual and then discuss information being presented (what I call communication) to that individual without making any assumptions as to where that communication comes from. That is, I have defined the individual who is trying to comprehend (think "learn the language") the meanings of the communications he is attempting to understand). I have made no definition of the source of that communication. It could be a party similar to himself (of course, before he learns anything, he can have no concept of what he actual is as he has learned no concepts) or that source could consist of a number of different entities. If you don't leave the issue open, you are making unjustified assumptions...

Then you are not discussing language - divorcing language from source is not possible; even if we do not know the source we will create a placeholder for that source, moreover even in the extreme example in which we believe there is no source that information will colour a listeners perception. And everything we do in the process of comprehension is contextualized by the source.

I would say you are the one making an unjustified, and unnatural assumption; that language can be separated from speaker, situation, and listener. You must reduce in order to simplify for an experiment or model - but the removal of an intrinsic factor cannot be ignored.

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Then you are not discussing language - divorcing language from source is not possible; even if we do not know the source we will create a placeholder for that source, moreover even in the extreme example in which we believe there is no source that information will colour a listeners perception. And everything we do in the process of comprehension is contextualized by the source.

I would say you are the one making an unjustified, and unnatural assumption; that language can be separated from speaker, situation, and listener. You must reduce in order to simplify for an experiment or model - but the removal of an intrinsic factor cannot be ignored.

I agree. You could, though, assign information about the participants of a conversation as well as things like body language (if present) and intonation. You'd probably also need to include something that would designate the existence of an ambiguity in the communication with separate index numbers for when meanings are part of a mutually exclusive or complementary layered ambiguity.

For instance, if I say something like:

I'm just no good at jokes, you see

Although I've language skill and joie de vivre

When asked to spell a word

Every one I've spelt

When asked to smell the flowers

Every one I've smelt

But when asked to make a joke, I must confront

That every single time I simply punt

Given the context, the meaning of the final two lines is ambiguous, with the alternatives changing both the tense and essential meaning. Does the fact that it rhymes convey additional information that needs to be accounted for? Surely a similar sentiment delivered in the format of a Shakespearian sonnet has a different meaning than one delivered through a series of limericks, even if the content is otherwise pretty much identical.

I do think that it is possible to account for all of this, at least in principle though certainly not in practice, but as Strange points out above, I'm not sure how it affects what Doctordick is envisioning.

This is true for the English language specifically. For example, when you say a noun in Croatian, you can infer the gender, the context, whether the noun is the subject or the object, what context it is being talked about in and you can sometimes even infer what the rest of the sentence will say about the noun. So, again, nothing new is being proposed.

Yes, this is why I referenced case systems. The real difficulty in all of this is that words aren't really the base unit of semantic information in a language, because additional meaning is conveyed through the relationship between words.

Languages use a vareity of tricks to illustrate these relationships including the morphology of the words, the order of the words, tone and inflection, prepositions and so on.

If you want to strip away all of those extra features of the language so that you're dealing with semantic information that is conveyed solely by the "words" (or index numbers) then you need to account for all of that extra information either by having an additional index number for each variation on a given concept, or by assigning index numbers to larger concepts that encompass the whole relationship (i.e. A number for "dog bites man" that is distinct from numbers for man, dog and bite).

If you don't do this and retain word order or connective words that otherwise lack semantic meaning on their own or what have you, then it isn't really a distinct system of encoding meaning, it's just a substitution cipher for a given language.

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Talking of Shakespeare - there is the famous line from Two Gentlemen

Who is Silvia? what is she,
That all our swains commend her?
Holy, fair, and wise is she;
The heaven such grace did lend her,

The first line was once read by an angry and vindictive actor as

Who is? Silvia? What! Is She?? [imagine vicious gossip talking about a third party]

But, obvious punctuation errors aside, reading the glorious poem by WS it is hard to believe that this can be shorn of context and survive.

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Talking of Shakespeare - there is the famous line from Two Gentlemen

Who is Silvia? what is she,

That all our swains commend her?

Holy, fair, and wise is she;

The heaven such grace did lend her,

The first line was once read by an angry and vindictive actor as

Who is? Silvia? What! Is She?? [imagine vicious gossip talking about a third party]

But, obvious punctuation errors aside, reading the glorious poem by WS it is hard to believe that this can be shorn of context and survive.

Exactly, it can't be. Which means that you'd need to pin down the additional information that is conveyed by understanding the context and include that in any string meant to encode the meaning of the work.

Best case scenario, sentences would need the "index number"-equivalent of heavy footnotes in order to fully capture the meaning of anything written that way.

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At the 400 year anniversary of Shakespeare's death, they had 10 actors (9 plus Prince Charles) who each said the lines "To be or not to be, that is the question" in sequence. Each one gave a stress on a different word in the sentence, so you had the sensation that they were saying 10 different things, which they probably were.

Entertaining, if nothing else

Edited by DrKrettin
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The issue of understanding reality is something I would like to seriously discuss. There is an aspect of that issue which no one seems to have any interest in thinking about. The issue I refer to is the fact that no one is born capable of considering the problem. Every person who has ever tried to think about that issue had to first learn the language spoken by their contemporaries. The underlying problem is that each and every one of them makes the assumption that they understand the language they have supposedly learned.

I would like to discuss the issue without making any assumptions about the language being examined. This constitutes a problem as even discussing the issues requires we use a language. I have a subtle means of working around that underlying issue which is apparently difficult for people to comprehend. My attack requires two fundamental concepts: first, establishing a mechanism for representing any conceivable language and second, establishing a mechanism capable of defining the concept of understanding within that representation of the language without actually defining the language itself.

In my discussion I would like to use English as the discussion mechanism in order to refer to some underlying aspects of the unknown language being represented.

If anyone is interested, let me know and I will make a serious attempt to explain my thoughts in English.

Thank you for taking the trouble to think about the issue.

The problem is that our language is only an analogy of reality. Reality has more statistical existence as potential than what we perceive as real. An example of this would be that light exists as wave of potential that could render a photon in farm more locations than the one that we measure it at. Basically, the reality of the light we experience is only one small slice of the actual reality that exists. Once it is realized, it cannot be realized somewhere else. In fact it forces the entire path to reach that point to also be singular. No one else can see the same photon as you, so we must assume, the only things that are "real" cannot be perceived by anyone else.

If we measure that light and create a representation of it's existence as data, then multiple people can be aware of it, but that data is only an analogy of that light, not the light itself. The reality we experience is only experienced by each person individually and language is the analogy that we use to share that perspective, to have it transcend what is "real" because "real" is only something that can happen singularly. Otherwise, two people could perceive the same object, with the same sentimental value, at two different locations. (If I lost my phone, it cannot be found by me and someone else simultaneously, because there is only one phone that is "real" to me in terms of sentimental value.)

If two people perceive the same object simultaneously at different positions in space, than one of them would be delusional, yet if one person perceives something that no one else can see, why is that not considered more real than anything else? Language is the analogy to express experiences that cannot exist to anyone else. Our sensory input is an analogy to reality because if there were a sixth sense, or if we never developed a sense of smell, there would be no language to describe that.

A common reality, or one that is shared among many conscious beings is really only a projection of similar experiences based on our ability to form analogous descriptions of them through communication. It is an analogy of the whole reality based on the input channels that we possess which are limited by an inability to experience anything else. Our brains form cohesion between senses, and our similar senses allow us to project experiences from one another as a simulation based on our own reality. Language is just one form of communication, but a common reality is just a simulation that maintains cohesion between intersecting perspectives.

Edited by AbnormallyHonest
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Exactly, it can't be. Which means that you'd need to pin down the additional information that is conveyed by understanding the context and include that in any string meant to encode the meaning of the work.

Best case scenario, sentences would need the "index number"-equivalent of heavy footnotes in order to fully capture the meaning of anything written that way.

Agreed. My point was that one form of additional information was a belief (in the mind of L) in the level of credence (in the mind of T) of the words of C; thus one of the "heavy footnotes" would need to be a set of P(x1,x2,...,xn). In summary a recursive reference - and we all know what recursive references can do in a scenario of transcribing one set of language into a series of numbers (!)

At the 400 year anniversary of Shakespeare's death, they had 10 actors (9 plus Prince Charles) who each said the lines "To be or not to be, that is the question" in sequence. Each one gave a stress on a different word in the sentence, so you had the sensation that they were saying 10 different things, which they probably were.

Entertaining, if nothing else

Lovely - really fun. Liked Sir Ian's very quiet aside "Hello Eddie"

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