Earlier this week, we received a reader comment decrying the use of jargon and overly-complex language in academic papers. Several responses to the comment noted that the research journal is really meant to be a high level conversation between experts, and as I wrote, if you had to start from the basics, then every single paper would be hundreds of pages long.
In the video below, we see neuroscientist Bobby Kasthuri explaining his work to five different people with five different levels of background knowledge: a five year-old; a 13 year-old; a college student; a neuroscience graduate student; and an entrepreneur active in the field that Kasthuri studies. It’s fascinating to watch the language that’s used change, for example, the number of abbreviations that start creeping into the conversations with the experts where the jargon and shorthand is assumed.
The video harkens back to a recent post by Kent Anderson, which talked about the “typographic mind”, and how print is sometimes the ideal mechanism for transmitting complex ideas. As the level of expertise of the audience increases, the value of the video as an explanation tool decreases. It’s also interesting to note that the promise of the research starts to get increasingly hedged as things shift from simple black and white concepts into complex realities. We can recreate the human brain in a computer eventually turns into we probably can’t create the human brain in a computer, once you get into the details.