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60 Second Idea

‘Use no language for a day’

Each week a global thinker from the worlds of philosophy, science, psychology or the arts is given a minute to put forward a radical, inspiring or controversial idea – no matter how improbable – that they believe would change the world.

“I think that language is overrated; some people even claim that you cannot think without language.

If you look at the political debates we pay an enormous amounts of attention to non-verbal communication. In fact, around 75% of our decisions are based on that.

And so I would want a day when we go without symbolic language. 

On such a day, we may still sigh and scream and laugh, and do all kinds of other non-verbal things we need to express ourselves without language.

Without language we can still tell people that we like them or hate them or they are our rivals, for instance.

I think this would reduce the amount of backstabbing and nastiness that goes on because if you want to express a rivalry you would have to do that to their face.”

You can listen to Fran discuss his idea with former Canadian politician Michael Ignatieff and Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig in more detail on the BBC World Service programme The Forum, where you can also download more 60-second ideas.

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