Language Really Is a Virus

I’ve always bought into the idea that language shapes our thoughts and enables us to do more with our brains, but there is evidence that it is much more profoundly true than I ever suspected. Have a listen to this great Radiolab episode:

What we think of as humanity is language, not genes. Thanks to genes we have brains that can process complex languages and spread the language virus to other brains, but without the language we might not even be people at all – just clever animals. If you had never learned a language, not only would you not be the same person but you might not even be aware you exist.

Humanity is self-replicating, self-modifying software running on an independently self-replicating squishy hardware platform.

I think this explains why infants undergo a radical mental restructuring in their first couple of years, and tend to not remember anything before that. ¬†They’re going from native, animal processing mode to being driven by an interpreted language.

This also contributes some explanation to why there can be such radical cultural differences and lack of understanding between peoples who speak different languages.

I hereby require everyone to learn a computer programming language. Then we can be the same species.