Philosophy of Language and Social Listening

Several weeks ago, I was with the managing director of Mobaxis, a company in Thailand that provides some of the newest digital solutions to companies. He showed me several new tools coming from Israel, India, and Silicon Valley, many of which were still not available in the mainstream market. They ranged from tools that focused on engagement, marketing, CRM, social listening, etc. "There will always be gaps that need to be filled," he tells me. And he's right. The digital industry is just as innovative as it is competitive.

Majayjay Falls:
“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” -Lao Tzu
The very expensive tool you are using right now could easily be obsolete tomorrow. Each day, new problems are born and along with them are the potential for new solutions. Just a few weeks ago, for instance, social ads and reach algorithms on Facebook behaved differently. Policies and formats can change in an instant and without warning.


Among all the tools, it was the social listening tools that really impressed me.

Social killed the Nielsen star. Actually, they do have social listening services (BuzzMetrics); it's merely an analogy to point out the need for traditional marketers to adapt, to be like water and seep through the cracks.

The reach and metrics we have in digital are already so profound and yet you can't help but shrug off the idea that this is only the beginning. There remains so many gaps to fill and so many barriers to break.

When it comes to sentiment analysis, for instance, I am reminded of a high school philosophy lecture on The Chinese Room argument — John Searle's rebuttal against the Turing Test.


The thought experiment emphasized the differentiation between syntax and semantics and questions the ability of a computer to be discerning. It makes you think, especially now with the advancement of quantum computing, if our consciousness is just a series of complex functions and equations that can be plotted in a graph and eventually cracked by really advanced algorithms. Simply put, are we merely a higher form of ones and zeroes?

I once read about this Sumerian mythology, I think, about extraterrestrials that came here and altered our DNA to give us the ability to comprehend language. It's quite similar to how we are programming machines nowadays.

Above is a video made by students from the Kansan State University back in 2007. Just look at how much can change is only a few years. Back then, Facebook was just a place to "poke" people and no one's probably even heard of social listening. 

 On average, you unlock your phone almost a hundred times a day. Your face is in front of a screen more than it is in front of another human being. As we move forward to the world of wearable tech and robotic hearts, we realize that we didn't create the machine. We are the machine. 

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