Publish at May 07 2018 Updated March 04 2022

Transhumanity of language: Who am I talking to?

Can AI replace the human being in the communication action?

« One can spend hours with machines, without being able to maintain satisfactory human and social relationships. Technical progress is not enough to create progress in human and social communication. To oppose the old and the new media is an old-fashioned problem; they must be thought together. The essence of communication is not the result of techniques but of people and societies.

So says Dominique Wolton (French sociologist born in 1947) about communication and its evolution in our new technological era.But can we really speak of evolution when we see that the more time passes, the more man is led to individualize himself, to no longer need others, even to discuss? Are we losing our humanity and wanting to integrate the machine in our lives? Would artificial intelligence replace the human being, even in terms of communication and languages? Say Siri, what do you think ?

A little bit of etymology…

Before anything else, let's look at the meaning of three words «language », « communication » and « humanism ».

  • The first means : « system of vocal and often graphic signs common to members of a community and constituting their tool of communication »,
  • the second, « technical means by which people communicate »
  • and the third : « theory which aims at the fulfillment of the human being».

Are these three notions compatible in view of their définitions ? In the first two, there is a clear allusion to the human - not virtual - spiciness of the communication action, the latter logically contributing to its épanouissement. So, we can think that in order to be happy, we must be able to communicate with someone - human, that is. D’accord, but a virtual human, ça also works ?

Siri, Alexa and Google Home

Virtual » humans »...If we look at three of the most important artificial intelligences developed for communication purposes, we think immediately;diately à Siri (developed by Apple in 2011), Alexa (developed by Amazon in 2014) and the last, Google Home (developed by Google in 2016).

Each of them is rather described as &a smart personal assistant&, but according to Noam Chomski (American professor of linguistics at MIT - Massachussets Institute of Technology - born in 1928), they would be &a common parrot and not artificial intelligences&. An example? If you ask them about something they don't know anything about, they will say: "I can't answer your question. For Chomsky, they need an input, that is, an initial source that they can then imitate and repeat. Without this initial source, they cannot develop a response from what they know to be true.

The behaviorist behavior, which consists in imitating humans and their language, adopted by these AIs does not allow them to establish the necessary algorithm to pierce the mystery of language, as it is too complex. These AIs cannot produce language as we do, at least today.Moreover, as Pierre Bourdieu (French sociologist, 1930-2002) once again pointed out, "language is above all a system of symbolic power relations where each word has its own meaning; each word has a particular meaning according to its social environment, past experiences, etc. Language is here a social phenomenon. However, an AI has no idea if the words it uses are hurtful to the person receiving them. »

Logically, we should not then speak here of « communication »…

Transhumanité beyond death

… But we want to believe ! The proof, did you know that two chatbots (or « conversational agents » in French), developed in 2016 by a Russian and an American, have allowed à their creators to chat with their loved ones dé funts ? No, no, we are not talking about clairvoyance, paranormal or pretty romance à the Ghost, but talking with an AI… but how is this possible ?

In fact, these two computer developers -each one of their own- had the idea to compile all their conversations and messages with their loved ones in order to continue talking with them beyond death. Of course, this project has its limits, because even if it can simulate a typical conversation like the one he had while he was alive by using idioms or his vocabulary, the chatbot will not be able to capture the worldview or the irony of the deceased. So this remains a utopia of discussion that continues beyond death.


But then, will conversing with a droïde like C3PO ever be anything but myth? The logical structure of linguistic theory can only be imitated, but not initiated by a cyber intelligence. Even if all languages have a central functioning similar to that of a computer language (Chomsky's theory), the original understanding of the software that understands the language is not the same;hension of the original software that understands and produces language remains absent in AI and, above all, the sensitive and intimate aspect, which is inherent to the human being, will remain inaccessible.

Finally, as an African proverb so aptly suggests: « True dialogue presupposes the recognition of the other à both in his or her identityé and in his or her altérité. Now, how can we recognize the other if he is devoid of all humanity?

Last proof, I just asked Siri on my iPhone: « Will artificial intelligence replace man ?Who, me ?…Transhumanism; or not ? À you be the judge !

Illustrations:  Tabble- Pixabay, Chatbot, Conversational experiences


Siri, Apple,

Alexa, Amazon,

Google Home, Google,

We are not ready to interact with an artificial intelligence, Adrien Rivierre, 08/12/2017,

Artificial intelligence begins to make the dead speak, Leila Marchand, Les Échos, 05/03/2018,

See more articles by this author




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