The Communication Problem

  • Michael Straeubig
Keywords: communication, AI, systems theory, constructivism, cybernetics, language


Analysis, interpretation and construction of artificial and natural languages have been central concerns of artificial intelligence since the 1950s.

Current applications for automated language progressing range from real-time translation of spoken language through automated discovery of sentiment in online postings to conversational agents embedded in everyday devices. Recent developments in machine learning, combined with the availability of large amounts of labelled training data, have enabled non-structural approaches to largely surpass classical techniques based on formal grammars, conceptual ontologies and symbolic representations. As the complexity and opaqueness of those stochastic models becomes more and more evident, however, the question arises if we trade gains in observable performance with a literal loss of understanding. This article presents a distinction-based approach to critically re-visit fundamental theoretical concepts such as code, information, language, communication and meaning. I will follow Niklas Luhmann’s theory of social systems by locating communication firmly within social systems. Departing from Luhmann, I do invite machines as participants into some of these systems. Finally, I propose to employ Friedemann Schulz von Thun’s 4-sided communication model in order to overcome the current information-theoretic emphasis of communication.


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How to Cite
Straeubig, M. (2020) “The Communication Problem ”, Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio, 14(2). doi: 10.4396/AISB201906.