Ant language and stuff

Richard Norman rnorman at umich.edu
Fri Feb 8 09:00:24 EST 2002


socspace at aol.com (Harley) wrote in message news:<4f0b2e30.0202071814.5775c85d at posting.google.com>...
> Would someone care to comment upon/critique the following assertion
> taken
> from a post to a social science newslist.  I myself do not know how
> much
> confidence to place in it
> 
> <<That reminds me of the language of ants which consists mainly of
> pheromone signals, just like the brain language consists mainly of
> neurotransmitters. Biologists say that ant languages have 10-20 words.
> My guess is that none of them contains more than 16 words, because it
> is at 16 bits/sec that a semblance of consciousness can appear, at
> least in the human brain.>>
> 
> Should I use your comments I plan to cite them as coming from a
> subscriber(so a neurosience group -- unless, of course, you give me
> permission to be more specific.
> 
> Harley

What you say is so flawed that it probably is a "troll" -- a phony
message designed to generate outraged response.  It is so bad that you
should be able to critique this for yourself, with no need to
attribute the ideas to anyone else.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help.

Is "brain language" an appropriate analogy?  What about "body
language" with a count of hormones?  What about real human language --
would you count letters or phonemes or are words the proper index?

What relation is there between the number of tokens (words) used in
communication and the number of bits encoded in the message?  Does one
"word" always equal one bit?

What relation is there between the information content (number of bits
in a message) in a message and the information RATE (bits per second)
in a communication channel?

What is "consciousness", let alone "semblance of consciousness"?

Who decided that 16 bits/second is the magic cutoff for consciousness?

If there is a cutoff, is it so precisely determined that we know for a
fact that 15 is not enough, but 17 is too much?

Incidentally, that ants use perhaps a dozen or so pheromones does
sound reasonable.  That one you can look up.




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