114: Computational Linguists
Title text: Chomskyists, generative linguists, and Ryan North, your days are numbered.
Here Black Hat is criticising computational linguistics, which overlaps between various field like theoretical linguistics, artificial intelligence, etc. Linguistics itself is still a hotly debated subject, as is seen by the various conflicting theories on the origin of languages like the forms of Proto-Indo-European language.
The joke in the comic is that Black Hat, instead of trying to poke fun at angsty emo kids, decides to poke fun at computational linguists for their attempts to model natural languages on computers using the various contradictory theories that are floating around nowadays.
The title text is a reference to some of the people who contributed to language theory:
- Noam Chomsky is an influential American psychologist and linguist who, based on cross-cultural studies, proposed a still-disputed theory that the human brain is unique from that of other species in that it includes a fundamental Language Acquisition Device (LAD) that is pre-programmed with basic rules of grammar and syntax: thus, language is innate to humans.
- Generative linguistics is a term within linguistics that is used in several ways, some of which are contradictory. This may be why it is chosen as a target by Black Hat.
- Ryan North is the author of the webcomic Dinosaur Comics, and has a degree in computational linguistics.
- [Black Hat is standing next to a large badge which says FUCK Computational Lingustics]
- Black Hat: And the dumbest thing about emo kids is that... I... You know, I'm sick of easy targets. Anyone can make fun of emo kids. You know who's had it too easy? Computational Linguists. "Ooh, look at me! My field is so ill-defined, I can subscribe to any of dozens of contradictory models and still be taken seriously!"