Written by
Joseph Mok
on Monday, September 16, 2013 at 6:44 PM


Mass Effect
video game
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The Humanity in Communication

By Joseph Mok on Monday, September 16, 2013 at 6:44 PM

I've been replaying the Mass Effect trilogy lately. And a few weeks ago, somewhere in the second game, one of the aliens hanging around the Citadel made a comment about the inefficiencies in humanity's method of communication. I don't remember the exact line, but in essence, it/she/he finds it baffling that we are unable to communicate our thoughts directly to one another but have to rely on primitive methods such as speech and body language to only communicate a crude representation of our thoughts.

I didn't pay much attention to it at the time, but it seemed to have found its way to the back of my mind and settled down. If you think about it, that little snippet in the game is a rather valid proposition to improving the way that we communicate. There has definitely been stories of gifted individuals who could communicate through thought, aka telepathy. But what if everyone could do it? How would the world be different?

At first glance, things would definitely be more efficient. We don't have to waste time explaining new ideas to others, the word "misunderstand" would probably never exist. People could still lie and be dishonest of course, but they would have less opportunity to mislead with words. It all seems well, at first glance.

But is communicating so efficiently, so perfectly, so effortlessly really an improvement? It would definitely be easier and quicker to say to someone, "Your eyes are beautiful." Yet it would be more meaningful to say to someone, "Your eyes are more brilliant than all the stars in the heavens combined." And if you consider the fact that communication encompasses not only spoken and written word, but also the whole of all of our senses, we would lose more than we would gain. The promise of efficiency would render music, films, art and all translations of thought obsolete.

By communicating through telepathy, the beauty of abstraction is stripped away, leaving behind a tangible, yet worthless husk masquerading as "thought". Our frustration and inability to pursue the ever elusive notion of fully conveying an idea is what makes us human.

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