The Wisdom of Revisiting Tried and True Theories — 2014 Edition

One good reason to know English is because other people know English — and thus knowing English makes communication with more people easier (than, say, knowing Swahili). Of course: If you live in East Africa, then the opposite may be true for people you are likely to come into contact with. Likewise, if you are a physicist, then you are likely to profit from knowing concepts (and words) that are useful for talking about physics; If you are a hairdresser, then maybe knowing different concepts (and different words) are going to help communication more with your customers; and so on. Talking about a “black hole” with one kind of person may lead to a very different kind of understanding than talking about “black holes” with other kinds of people.

Apart from such special cases in which such professional jargon might make communication easier, we usually focus on using common words, and we tend to use them they way they are normally understood by most people. When someone asks me whether I would like a cookie, my normal inclination is to guess that person is offering me something that I might like to eat… — and by eating I mean: put it into my mouth, chew on it, and then swallow it. In a rich and developed language, there is no need to break such details down into bits and pieces (yet some “artificial” languages [such as Esperanto and/or programming languages] are based on explicating everything in little atomic elements, and then piecing them together).

Most humans are more comfortable using “traditional” languages, which have evolved over many hundreds and thousands of years, and which make it relatively easy to say “hello” or “good morning”… and to be able to say something like that to many people easily, without requiring a college degree or a lot of intellectual overhead. We could probably learn more languages, and yet the reason we don’t is probably that we feel the effort is not worth it.

I was talking about something like this with my friend Ted Ernst Sarvata the other day, and this gave me another new insight into how the Wisdom of Language is related to the Wisdom of the Crowds: Not only is “” a good way to network with people who care about art, but indeed “.com” is a very widespread (“commercial”) language spoken by a lot of people.

The more widespread a language is, the more certain people become about how to use it. Across most of the world, the English word “hello” has a well-understood meaning. The word “hello” does not exist in German, and this leads many people to confuse the German word “hallo” with the English word “hello” (these two words have different meanings — the German “hallo!” is normally used in the sense of “hey, you, over there!” and is used mainly to get someone’s attention before saying something [like "watch out for that open sewer hole!!"]).

Just as different “natural” languages may be similar or different, more widespread or less widespread, so too different top-level domains may be more or less widely subscribed to. “.COM” is the most widely subscribed to domain worldwide, and therefore people feel comfortable using it much in the same way that many people are comfortable using English as a “lingua franca”.

Over the next several years, many new top-level domains will be introduced to the Internet — I expect them to about as successful as the .MUSEUM domain (in other words: they will probably be big-time flops). Their use will be similar to localized dialects, secret slang languages or hand signs, or perhaps in some cases more like signals of membership in an exclusive group or society. If people are aware of the fact that .SONG belongs to the Amazon Corporation, then they are likely to realize that domains like and/or are probably linked to that company in some way. In contrast, might have a more particularly commercial meaning, and a site like is probably going to be about song names, website names that are related to songs, or something like that.

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