How would you quantify a statement like

We believe [terrorists are coming]


It is probable that [again, something terrible].

This is one topic to really tickle my fancy: Data Visualization, Semantics and Intercultural Communication all rolled into one. Even though I disagree that setting standards in phrasing is the right course of action, I very much enjoy the research from Psychology of Intelligence Analysis prompting it.

If you have a means to convey information less ambiguously, do it! Words don’t mean the same to everyone. Neither do images, mind you, but there is a decent chance that some very low level visualizations are less wrought with semantic ambiguity. Semantic ambiguity is definitely a challenge for quantificational statements in natural languages and as I have recently experienced it can be a pain to overcome in intercultural communication.

My problems were merely communicating workload estimates across a diverse team. Imagine what different interpretations of threat levels expressed in natural language can do to intelligence sharing between different cultures. Read the article on words of estimative probability to get an idea.

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