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The broken phone

We're slaves to the receiver's interpretation.

teléfono descompuesto

The first time I played the broken phone, it seemed like a game, say, to be subtle, a little strut. I think everyone knows what it consists of, but in case there is any fallen from the cot, I summarize it very synthetically: a person tells in his ear a relatively complex phrase (with a couple of subordinate sentences, if possible) to the person next to him. That person repeats it in his ear on the other side but changing something.

The mechanism is repeated until the whole round of the round and then the first, the one who thought the original phrase says it out loud, the latter says the one they told him, compare and laugh at seeing the difference. A little simple, it's true. But there is something that, if we start analyzing it, removes simplicity, transforms it from turmock into almost the premise of philosophical research and, at least, helped me understand something fundamental: that is how communication between humans works. Always. It's inevitable. We are slaves to   interpretation   of the receiver.

To clarify what I mean, we could quote Wittgenstein, Foucault, Chomsky, Saussure, not to mention Plato or Seneca. But we do not need to go to the enlightenment of philosophy; what I mean is already enlightened, only we never stop to look at that corner. Let's put, for example, to start with something easy, that in a coffee talk I tell a friend: “I bought a red house.” Perfect. Do you understand what I mean? A priori one would say yes, but what is “a house”? Four walls and a ceiling? 50 square meters or 200? Square roof, gable roof, shingles, sheet metal? Okay. And now, what is “red”? The color of an apple, a bell, blood or a watermelon? (I deliberately use only “natural” examples because otherwise, the topic would become even more complicated.

If you don't believe me, ask the designers who had to invent the pantone — a catalogue — so as not to tear off or their eyes, or think about the last time they chose color in a painting shop). Well, now let's think about what would happen if my friend said “I'm sad,” “I'm hot” or “yesterday I went to a new grill and ate ten.” What exactly does “sad”, “heat”, “grill”, “new” and “eat ten” mean? They mean what the receiver put together in his mind with that sound, which is quite feasible completely different from the image I have in mine. That is, the   catcher   understand what he wants (or can) understand, regardless of what I say (and that assuming that I, through language, reproduces   exactly   the image that I want to convey, which should pass maximum ten times a year).

I mean, if we think about it, the broken phone is not so strutter. It teaches us as little ones that   communication   between humans is practically impossible, and that we are going to have to settle for the receiver to understand   more or less   what we want to tell you. Moreover, of course, to teach us that even more rigorous we are by what we mean, we may not be true or to our own ideas. No turkey.

Publication Date: 20/04/2018

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