Ludwig Wittgenstein. Surely, he’ll be played by Peter Capaldi if they make another movie about him.

The Language Game: How Wittgenstein’s Ideas Can Revolutionize AI Skills Training

Clark Boyd
4 min readApr 3


“Understanding a sentence means understanding a language. Understanding a language means understanding the form of life to which it belongs.” — Philosophical Investigations

Ludwig Wittgenstein is one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century, yet also one of the least understood. That very paradox is very Wittgensteinian.

He can be intimidating to read. His work covers a variety of complex concepts and he writes in an aphoristic, almost mystical style. Check out the opening to his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus:


Wittgenstein discusses concepts that he later tells the reader cannot possibly be discussed with any substance. He aims for the purest precision, yet all too often bewilders with his selection of words.

“We are unable to give any account of the connection between ‘rule’ and ‘application,’ because we can describe this connection only by using the very terms we should have to define.” Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics

Nonetheless, I believe Wittgenstein has something profound to say to us in the AI age in two key areas:

  1. What it will take for AI to understand language, beyond parroting what it finds in its training corpus.
  2. Where we should focus our attention to develop new, valuable skills.

In this article, we will explore how Wittgenstein’s key philosophical theories highlight the skills needed to thrive in the AI age. We will also discuss the limitations of generative AI in light of these theories.

Three key ideas from Wittgenstein for the AI age:

  1. Language Games: In his Philosophical Investigations (published posthumously) Wittgenstein posited that language is not just a…



Clark Boyd

Tech/business writer, lecturer (Columbia), and data analyst. >500k views on Medium. I used to be with it, but then they changed what ‘it’ was.