I’ve developed a fundamental model of what an individual is, though, my model tends towards an optimal individual and is not necessarily geared towards explaining humans as they currently are. Like most ideas that try to explain the mind, its not perfect, but it does provide some tools for understanding and roll the ball closer towards truth. Part of this model is understanding why one optimal individual (OI) would ever communicate with another OI. The conclusion I’ve come to is that these OIs would communicate to influence other OIs, and since an OI is defined by an individual with goals it aims to achieve, the communication would be an attempt to further its own goals. So then the question becomes: why would one OI assist another OI in furthering its goals? This stumped me for a bit, but OI1 would help OI2 because OI1 expects OI2 to assist OI1 with OI1’s goals in the future.
Pretty interesting, since this is what a lot of society is based on – particularly more formalized parts of society like government and business. This doesn’t explain everything about why we people communicate, though. I also don’t think people regularly calculate “Oh I should help this person so I can use them in the future.” Sometimes the cost of communicating is so low that even if the communication recipient doesn’t further our future goals, we receive benefit in other ways. We may feel good about ourselves for helping, or we may gain status in a community by advertising that we are a friendly person, we may ourselves feel better just by talking, and there are probably other peripheral benefits achievable.
Theres another form of communication which isn’t made clear by understanding communication in this model: communication with no intended recipient. Going again to the Moody Blues, they have a lyric “Letters I’ve written, never meaning to send”. I think in this case, he’s using communication to reason something out – to explain it to himself. Another example of communication without an intended recipient may be this blog. Apparently people read it, but, I’m really just writing this for myself. I was already writing these sorts of things in notebooks (or not at all), and I thought I should put them online to increase my probability of luck (plus I get to imagine someone might one day answer the questions I drop in the posts from time to time). Its a bit like shouting “Hello!” into a big dark cavern – there isn’t an intended recipient per se, but the message may be received. (The potential outcomes seem similar too: either I could find help, or, an angry tribe of cannibals could come tear me to pieces!)
The question captured in the title of this post is something I’m still trying to unravel. I think I’ve done a decent job at capturing most of the impetus for communication, particularly in the OI model, and also have a reasonable handle on why humans communicate. I’d be curious to hear if there are other types of communication that are not represented by what I’ve described so far. I’ll need to eventually describe more about what an OI is, but thats a really really big topic that I’m slowly putting together material for a video on.