Issue 72: Listening to Words

At a recent lunch, a colleague of ours pointed out how he had begun to hone his listening skills and that he increasingly realizes just how often people tend to take for granted that everyone else uses words in just the same way that they do. For example, when negotiating a schedule, he says that he often hears his employees reaching agreements with each other – agreements that can’t be met but which sound good all the same. The reason the agreements sound good is that each person hears a set of words and imagines that the meaning is precisely what they want rather than what the other is actually intending. By listening carefully and slowing everyone down in order to more carefully define their terms, he’s been able to avoid a lot of headaches.

So we thought that this month’s Blog Wyrm would focus on words and meanings and perceptions in a variety of contexts.

Everyone knows that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, right? It’s one of Newton’s three laws and a pillar of physics. But sometimes what is meant by equal and opposite action and reaction is more complicated than at first glance. Under The Hood explores the various meanings and nuances of this old idea.

Understanding words precisely is a sign of intelligence. Being able to play with them and layer multiple meanings is also a sign of intelligence. Both attributes are needed for artificial intelligence to pass the Turing Test. But sometimes, as this month’s Aristotle To Digital argues, being confused may be the most important aspect to help an AI blend in.

Can words and ideas deeply affect the economy? Yes! when they persuade large numbers of people to ignore great job opportunities simply because these jobs aren’t cool. Thankfully, Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs, cares about this jobs gap. Read this month’s Common Cents to see what he has to say (and, amusingly) how he says it.

Finally, this month’s About Comics looks at the evolution of words and ideas in comics over the decades from the early days in the Golden Age to the modern comic.