Language is no longer learned, but streamed to neural implants regulated by lang-laws.
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Author Guest Post
The Future of Language: Neural Implants
The Babel Apocalypse describes a near-future in which language is no longer learned, it’s streamed to neural implants in our heads from Wi-Fi in space. The premise is based on the current research trajectory of neural implants.
Elon Musk claimed in a 2020 interview, that neural implants developed by his neurotechnology company Neuralink will make language learning obsolete in the near future. Hence, The Babel Apocalypse poses the question: What would be lost if languages are treated as simply data owned an developed by big tech?
And this is the answer: In a future era of language-as-commodity, it is inevitable that whether a language lives or dies would be based on economics. In other words, those languages with little demand on streaming services would cease to exist.
As language would be stored entirely on servers, language would, in effect, be controlled by the big tech companies that lease it back to human populations that have undergone language chipping.
The Babel Apocalypse imagines a system where language is controlled by a body based in California, called Unilanguage. This is modelled on the very system in place for vetting new emojis, which are controlled and approved by Unicode (also based in California, controlled by just a few of the world’s leading tech firms).
One consequence would be that as languages fall out of demand, there would be little incentive for big tech firms to continue to store them, tying up valuable server space. And as populations undergo language chipping, native speakers would cease to exist. Hence, lesser-used languages would simply die out—a consequence of lack of demand, which is simple economics at work. If there is no demand, it doesn’t pay. Hence, providers stop offering it.
The Babel Apocalypse imagines a future in which there are just 250 surviving languages (compared to around 6,500 today).
National governments would likely try to preserve cultural unity, while ensuring subscriptions are affordable for the poorest citizens. Hence, The Babel Apocalypse posits a situation in which (most) states require all public security systems (referred to as VirDas—short for Virtual Digital Assistants) to run on a single state language. For context, VirDas are the mechanisms for processing voice commands, and hence the main security portals for accessing everything from grocery stores to offices, from vehicles to homes.
As an example, the national state language in France, on which all public VirDas would run, would be French. In the US, it would likely be English. In practice, this would mean that in France, say, it would be sufficient to only need to pay for a single language streaming package. And to gain entry to a supermarket, for instance, the language user would identify at the store entrance, using voice commands, by speaking into the VirDa. Incidentally, this technology would also mean that stores and supermarkets are fully automated (no need for human clerks or cashiers). Label sensor fusion tech, already being trialled, would mean that a shopper’s groceries can be located with each individual shopper, who would use their voice command authorization to pay for their purchase at self-checkout, prior to being “allowed” to leave the store.
Of course, there are multiple consequences of all this for language. Regional accents and dialects, being non-standard, would require more expensive streaming subscriptions—this entails that regional accents would become status symbols. The working classes would be, in effect, priced out of their own local language varieties.
The range and variety of human language would be erased at a stroke. This, self-evidently, has implications for identity, ethnicity, and so on. It also has consequences for who controls language, and how new words are coined, or come to fall out of use. These would become decisions for big tech and government, not individual speakers of languages.
About the Book
The Babel Apocalypse
Songs of the Sage Book One
by Vyvyan Evans
Published 20 December 2023
Length: 11 hours and 50 minutes
Narrator: Will Damron
Published 2 May 2023
Genre: Science Fiction
Page Count: 388
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
Language is no longer learned, but streamed to neural implants regulated by lang-laws. Those who can’t afford monthly language streaming services are feral, living on the fringes of society. Big tech corporations control language, the world’s most valuable commodity.
But when a massive cyberattack causes a global language outage, catastrophe looms.
Europol detective Emyr Morgan is assigned to the case. Suspect number one is Professor Ebba Black, the last native speaker of language in the automated world, and leader of the Babel cyberterrorist organization. But Emyr soon learns that in a world of corporate power, where those who control language control everything, all is not as it seems. After all, if the mysterious Ebba Black is to blame, why is the Russian Federation being framed for an outage it claims no responsibility for? And why is Ebba now a target for assassination?
As he and Ebba collide, Emyr faces an existential dilemma between loyalty and betrayal, when everything he once believed in is called into question. To prevent the imminent collapse of civilization and a deadly war between the great federations, he must figure out friend from foe—his life depends on it.
And with the odds stacked against him, he must find a way to stop the Babel Apocalypse.
Ebba was all too aware that she was viewed as an anomaly by pretty much everyone; she was neither feral nor out-soc. So, some of her students—especially those from outside the Republic, such as the Grand Union, and other places too—thought she must be breaking the law. It was a common misconception. She had even once been reported to the authorities by one of those types. For being an unchipped ghost, as they called her. That made her laugh; a dark laugh at the irony of it. The mutes, she called them. Those who had been fitted with Universal Grammar tech.
But while she officially resided in the Nordic Republic, and as long as she remained there, Ebba wasn’t doing anything illegal. The Republic was something of a curiosity even among Tier One states, never having passed a lang-law. Yet this singular absence was offset by the special requirements of Nordic birth licenses. To have one granted, prospective parents had to consent to their newborn being fitted with Universal Grammar tech. So everyone got a language chip at birth anyway, together with an ear implant transceiver. Which meant that voice command tech was, for all intents and purposes, de rigueur even without a lang-law. But that was the Scandinavian way. In the Nordic Republic, they organized freedom.
For her part, Ebba knew it wasn’t her. It was everyone else who had the problem. “That’s what you would think,” her braver, typically male students told her. “You’re Ebba Black.” Ha! Whatever that means. How do they know what Ebba Black would think anyway?
About the Author
Dr. Vyvyan Evans is a native of Chester, England. He holds a PhD in linguistics from Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., and is a Professor of Linguistics. He has published numerous acclaimed popular science and technical books on language and linguistics. His popular science essays and articles have appeared in numerous venues including ‘The Guardian’, ‘Psychology Today’, ‘New York Post’, ‘New Scientist’, ‘Newsweek’ and ‘The New Republic’. His award-winning writing focuses, in one way or another, on the nature of language and mind, the impact of technology on language, and the future of communication. His science fiction work explores the status of language and digital communication technology as potential weapons of mass destruction.
The author will award a copy of the audiobook to a randomly drawn winner.a Rafflecopter giveaway
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