Current solutions to the ambiguity problem
In recent posts I’ve been talking about a gap in our ecosystem of communication tools. My last post used an example from Eric Weinstein to illustrate the problem. Here I want to build on that post by looking in more depth at the current solutions that Weinstein has available to him.
What solutions are available to him right now?
He can say “well I’m pro-choice, generally”. This is succinct but not accurate.
He can give a monologue articulating his actual view. This is accurate, but not succinct.
He can write an essay, publish it on the internet, and give the view articulated therein a name — eg, he could call it “pro-utility” (if he thinks his view is utilitarian). Then when asked, he could say “I’m pro-utility. You can read my blog post about it.” This gets him succinctness and accuracy. But it introduces another problem. Asking someone to read an essay on your blog is a tall order. He’ll say “I’m pro-utility, you can read my blog post.” And his audience will, for the most part, not read it. So now he’s failed to get them to understand at all, let alone understand succinctly and accurately.
If he could get his new word, “pro-utility” into the popular lexicon, then he could say “I’m pro-utility” and not have to refer to is blog post because people would already know what it meant. Now he’s getting understanding accurately and succinctly. One obvious difficulty with this approach is that it’s difficult to get a new word propagated into the popular lexicon. A second difficulty is that if he manages to succeed at popularizing the word, he’ll soon run into the same problem he started with: people will use the word “pro-utility” to name a range of views which aren’t actually what he meant. They might be closer to his actual view than “pro-choice”, but there will be ambiguity resulting in loss of accuracy.
What else could he do?
He could make a short video and put it on YouTube. But this seems to have the same problems as his essay. Maybe the video is shorter — but this would seem to come at the cost of accuracy or specificity.
He could find someone — a scientist or politician perhaps — who has already written an essay, and refer people to that. But again, people aren’t going to read it.
The unfortunate fact, I believe, is that he doesn’t have a good solution to this problem given current tools.