The Limits of Language and Finding Work You Love


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 19, 2023

4 min read


The Limits of Language and Finding Work You Love


In a world where artificial intelligence (AI) systems are becoming increasingly common and powerful, there is a growing realization that these systems, while smart, are still limited in their understanding. The problem, however, does not lie with AI itself, but rather with the limited nature of language. This article explores the connection between language and knowledge, the contextual nature of words and sentences, and the importance of nonlinguistic understanding. Additionally, it delves into the concept of finding work that one is passionate about and provides actionable advice on self-discovery, overcoming self-doubt, and surrounding oneself with inspiring individuals.

The Limits of Language:

Throughout history, there has been a prevailing belief that knowledge is synonymous with language. The ideal form of language was seen as a purely formal, logical-mathematical structure, or alternatively, natural language could serve the purpose with some effort to eliminate ambiguities and imprecisions. This view shaped early work in Symbolic AI, where AI systems were considered intelligent if they could manipulate symbols to produce the right sentences. However, language is just one form of knowledge representation, and it has its limitations.

Language excels at expressing discrete objects, properties, and relationships between them at an abstract level. It compresses information, leaving out certain nuances and contextual details. On the other hand, nonlinguistic representational schemes, such as iconic knowledge (images, recordings, graphs, maps) and distributed knowledge (trained neural networks), can express information in a more accessible and context-sensitive manner. Therefore, while language is important for communication, it does not encompass the entirety of intelligence.

Contextual Understanding and AI:

Language-dependent AI systems, such as Large Language Models (LLMs), operate by discerning patterns at multiple levels within existing texts. They rely on context to understand the meaning of individual words and sentences, enabling them to generate plausible continuations or responses. However, this understanding is shallow compared to the deep nonlinguistic understanding that humans possess.

LLMs are trained to pick up on the background knowledge of each sentence, using surrounding words and sentences to piece together the overall context. This contextual knowledge is crucial for their performance. Nevertheless, critics argue that LLMs are merely engaged in mimicry, as they lack the ability to practically use the knowledge they possess. Their understanding is limited to the surface level, and they cannot approximate the deep understanding that humans possess.

Finding Work You Love:

Scott Dinsmore's TED Talk emphasizes the importance of finding work that one is passionate about. Many people find themselves climbing the ladder of a career that society expects them to pursue, only to realize that they are not truly fulfilled. Dinsmore proposes a three-step framework for discovering passionate work.

The first step is to become a self-expert and understand oneself. This involves identifying activities that one loves to do, regardless of whether they are paid for it. It also requires recognizing one's strengths and values. Self-discovery is essential for aligning work with one's true nature.

The second step involves overcoming self-doubt and the belief that certain things are not possible. Dinsmore encourages individuals to prove themselves and others wrong by taking small incremental steps towards their goals. Surrounding oneself with inspiring people who believe in one's potential is crucial for overcoming limitations.

The third step is about changing one's surroundings to create a supportive environment. Dinsmore suggests that the people one spends the most time with greatly influence their mindset and possibilities. By choosing to be around inspiring individuals and distancing oneself from negativity, one can cultivate a mindset of growth and possibility.


Language, while important for communication, is not the sole indicator of intelligence. AI systems, although impressive, have limitations due to their reliance on language as a knowledge representation. On the other hand, nonlinguistic understanding, such as contextual and non-contextual knowledge, plays a significant role in human thinking and decision-making.

In the realm of work, finding one's passion and aligning it with their strengths and values is essential for personal fulfillment. Overcoming self-doubt and surrounding oneself with inspiring individuals can lead to personal growth and the possibility of achieving what was once deemed impossible.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Engage in self-discovery: Take the time to understand your passions, strengths, and values. Identify the activities that you love to do, regardless of external rewards.
  • 2. Overcome self-doubt: Challenge the beliefs that limit your potential. Take small incremental steps towards your goals and prove to yourself and others that you are capable of achieving what you desire.
  • 3. Surround yourself with inspiring individuals: Choose to spend time with people who believe in your potential and support your aspirations. Distance yourself from negativity and surround yourself with individuals who inspire and motivate you.

In conclusion, language has its limitations, and AI systems, while intelligent in their own right, can never fully replicate the deep understanding that humans possess. Additionally, finding work that one is passionate about requires self-discovery, overcoming self-doubt, and surrounding oneself with inspiring individuals. By embracing these principles, individuals can unlock their true potential and make a positive impact on the world.

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