There are 6 major languages families – accounting for 85% of speakers – and each represents at least 5% of living languages. Of the 6 major language families, the one that encompases the fewest languages is Afro-Asiatic, which accounts for 353 languages including Somali, Egyptian and 29 versions of Omotic, which is spoken typically in Ethiopia.
3 operating systems
There are 3 operating systems. Between them Microsoft (82.07%), Apple (9.27%) and Linux (1.65%) are running on 93% of web-using computers. In mobile systems, 4 operating systems run 94% of mobile devices.
This reduction in languages allows for standardisation and facilitates mass connectivity. My computer, my artefact of distributed cognition, can talk to yours even though we are nowhere near each other and might not even speak the same language. Two strangers united by our computers’ ability to connect to the same evocative Neil Young 7 minute song based loosely on the conquest of Mexico.
I am my OS, you are my OS
But there are worrying implications to this narrowing of languages, specially as we become more dependent on the technological components of our distributed cognition.
As more of our cognitive activity takes place outside of our skull and instead is done for us by our devices, we will find that we are becoming more and more like eachother. Once differentiated by biology, language, cultural background, upbringing and physiology, our processes become more similar. And as our processes become more similar, we could lose some of the wealth of thought and behaviour what makes our race so extraordinary.
Ray Kurwzeil has suggested a time (2019) those elements of distributed cognition return within our skulls, but as cybernetic implants. The implants will carry out cognitive activities for us, but we will no longer have to carry them or have them in our pocket. The chip in my brain will carry out my remembering, or my computing or my filtering of data for me.
While microchips and bytes of programme are incredible facilitators, freedom is not something they bring. Rather, architecture and code is stronger than law. Law can punish transgression and you will be punished if you transgress (if you get caught). But you can’t transgress code, can’t transgress architecture. So when we do all have implants (assuming its not a preserve of the rich in “spoils to the winners” mode) we will all have the same cognitive limitations, as defined by – as things stand – 4 companies.