The Code is Technology

Note: Remember to click on any word on this page to experience the next evolutionary step in technology supported reading.

Nothing More Basic Than the Alphabet

Nothing is more basic, really, than the alphabet. It’s amazing.

Johanna Drucker, Professor of Media Studies and Director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Media Studies at the University of Virginia. Author, The Alphabetic Labyrinth. Source: COTC Interview –

The Enabling Technology of Civilization

David Boulton: So, in a sense, writing is the enabling technology of civilization.

Dr. John Searle: It’s right, as far as it goes, to say that the written language enables civilization. But I would go a further step and say it doesn’t just enable it in the sense of making it possible, but rather, it constitutes itIt is a constitutive element of civilization in that you cannot have what we think of as the defining social institutions of civilization without having written language. You cannot have universities and schools. But not just the pedagogical institutions, but you can’t even have money or private property or governments or national elections, or for that matter, cocktail parties and marriages. You can’t even have a summer vacation or a lawsuit without a written language.

So, written language is where language acquires, not just a much greater creative power, but an enduring power, because you can create these wonderful writings that survive, that go on and on and get repeated. Think of the Constitution of the United States or the Declaration of Independence.

David Boulton: It’s the infrastructure of civilization.

Dr. John Searle: Indeed. It is the infrastructure, but it isn’t just the infrastructure of roads and bridges, it’s the infrastructure of human civilization itself.

John Searle, Mills Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Language at University of California-Berkeley. 2004 National Humanities Medal for shaping modern thought about the nature of the human mind. Author of Mind: A Brief Introduction to the Fundamentals of Philosophy.  Source: COTC Interview –

Writing System is a Technology

Dr. Keith Stanovich: There’s your idea of — and I like that the phrase of “a writing system is a technology,” and it’s a cultural artifact that is, again, not natural in the sense that those famous articles in reading talk about things being natural.

David Boulton: And not like today’s technology, where some team got together and figured it out. We would not let machine in the world run anything like this.

Dr. Keith Stanovich: Right. Now, there’s it being a technology in the insight, and there’s that insight. But then that’s the point you just made, I think the issue is then: How efficacious a technology this is is kind of another issue. I think there are two things because there’s technologies that are not as messed up, but nonetheless, someone would still have to have the insight, that you’re still dealing with a cultural artifact. All I’m saying is that those are all good points, but I think there are two things rattling around in there.

Keith Stanovich, Canada’s Research Chair of Applied Cognitive Science, Department of  Human Development and Applied Psychology, University of Toronto. Source: COTC Interview –

Technology Behind the Modern Mind

Dr. John Searle: People don’t just get born into how to live as human beings, they have to learn how to live as human beingsMuch of their learning — indeed, almost all of their learning is by way of language. Some is by way of brute animal imitation. But once you get really going with advanced forms of civilization like falling in love or becoming a doctor, then you must have written language.

So, the forms of civilization that we think of as essential to the distinction between humans and other forms of animal life require advanced institutional structures. You and I spend our lives locked into institutional structures. I spend my life in a university. You spend your life engaged in various kinds of linguistic and technological enterprises. All of those require language, but particularly the advanced human forms of civilizations, like universities and like governments and like national elections – all of those require writing.

David Boulton: Excellent. So, the development of writing and the complexity that’s come with writing and the dimensions with which writing can refer to itself, and so forth, has actually changed the oral language.

Dr. John Searle: Oh, well, of course. It’s changed the way we think and talk. I can’t have the kinds of feelings that I have without language, but I can’t have those without writing. So, I mentioned falling in love, but there are all kinds of other emotions that you cannot have without some way to articulate those. And that requires social forms of articulation, and they require written forms of articulation.

John Searle, Mills Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Language at University of California-Berkeley. 2004 National Humanities Medal for shaping modern thought about the nature of the human mind. Author of Mind: A Brief Introduction to the Fundamentals of Philosophy. Source: COTC Interview –

All But Fated by How Well the Learn an Archaic Technology

David Boulton: Right. One of the things that gets me though, is that what we’re saying in effect is that the majority of our children, to some degree, are having their lives all but fated by how well they learn to interface with an archaic technology.

Dr. Reid Lyon: Well, by archaic technology, if you mean lousy teaching…

David Boulton: No, I mean by the code itself.

Dr. Reid Lyon: Well, I see what you mean. We’re not going to change the code, I’m sure. 

G. Reid Lyon, Past- Chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch of the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development,
National Institutes of Health, Current senior vice president for research and evaluation with Best Associates. Source: COTC Interview –

An Incredibly Modern Invention

One of the interesting things about reading is that it’s an incredibly modern invention. I mean, in a sense, reading was invented by Gutenberg. I once heard Professor Gardner at Harvard make such a statement and I’ve loved it ever since. You could say reading was invented by the Swedish kings, who for the first time required that every child in the kingdom must learn to read and who left the local preacher, the local minister responsible for teaching them. And that’s a seventeenth century event. So in fact, this incredibly heavy exercise that we’re all engaged in, that involves such intensive learning is based on a relatively recent event.

Michael Merzenich, Chair of Otolaryngology at the Keck Center for Integrative Neurosciences at the University of California at San Francisco. He is a scientist and educator, and founder of Scientific Learning Corporation and Posit Science Corporation. Source: COTC Interview –