Before and After Language


In 2013, Mike Ridley told a conference hall full of Librarians that language would soon become irrelevant.  Library icon Sarah Houghton provided the best summary of the resulting disbelief and controversy: Internet Librarian 2013 – Beyond Literacy: Exploring a Post-Literate Future

I haven’t stayed in close enough contact with the global librarian community to know if Mike was ever forgiven for his heresy.  It’s safe enough to say that books will not disappear soon, but by all accounts 2016 is the year when Virtual Reality joins the mainstream.  So, maybe Mike Ridley was right.


My favorite humans are the brand new kind.  I love to nurture and entertain babies, because their reactions are pure, unscripted, devoid of formal instruction, and full of wonder.  Therefore, there is no crime worse than abuse of any kind against a child.  Physical abuse is horrible, but so are mental and emotional abuse.  I have protected children all my life.  First, as an older sister, then as a babysitter, now as a mother and mentor.  I will always be the parent, teacher, friend who lets children play!  Instead of focusing so much on all the things a baby needs to learn, adults should take the opportunity to learn from babies.


I was recently asked: “What language do you think in?”

My answer was: “All languages and none. Language slows me down.”

I surround myself with music throughout the day, and lyrics in Spanish, English, French, Italian, Portuguese and German trigger memories and ideas constantly, because those are the languages I understand.  However, all other music, whether it’s in a language unknown to me, or in an entirely instrumental piece, makes me think and produces a reaction.  Music leads me to action, and brings me back to my own baby days, when the world was new and of my own making.  Songs make me move and think with my whole body.  I’ve retrained my mind to act on impulse, not limited by language.


The clues to my baby-like thinking presented themselves to me about a year ago, when I was consistently beating enterprise software and complicated algorithms in my data science work.

Think about what a burden it is to translate human thought into a software package, which needs to first be designed, then has to be understood by the sales team, explained to the customer, sold, and finally used.  The training and support are on-going.

When I do what I do, I don’t “think”. I scan, connect, revisit, laugh, remember, contact, cringe, call, and build.  Sometimes, I even cry.  Data Science is the most human of the new disciplines because it is attempting to replicate what each of us can already do instinctively.  But first, we may need to clear our minds of what we have been taught.



We will always need teachers, librarians, and mentors willing to take on new apprentices.  What we don’t need is to crush singularly gifted minds because they don’t fit a mold.  Even if you are not a formal “educator”, you can work your magic keeping the world full of wonder.  Don’t be the adult who tells children: “_________ properly”.

That blank can represent any number of spirit killing admonitions:

“Walk properly”

“Eat properly”

“Write properly”

Whose definition of “properly” are you helping to keep alive anyway?  Your sense of duty should be stronger to the current and future generations, than to those who have already left us, as wonderful as their legacy may be.  Dare to get in trouble with other adults!  As I so often have, for being the auntie who taught her ninja moves to the younger family members, on the forts made from sofa pillows.


Our most sentimental need is to feel understood.  That is why we invented so many languages.  Now, we are focusing on shortening the distances that still separate us.  This is why Virtual Reality is exploding in new products and concepts.  We are moving beyond language, because we finally have the technology to allow us to be like babies again.  What’s more baby-like than reaching out to grab something, and immediately putting it in your mouth? Maybe that’s what we’ve been trying to do all along, we just couldn’t put it into words.

Photo credit: Melanie Schwolert / Kevin Lopez

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Silvia Spiva
Silvia Spiva
Silvia K. Spiva is a Multicultural Marketer, creating content for global audiences, from the heart of Silicon Valley. Her passions include children's literacy, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), and finding ways to bridge if not crush the #DigitalDivide.
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