The Art of Conversation

M Gilang Januar
3 min readOct 22, 2019

Have you ever wondered how people talk? They all understand what other people are talking about. And sometime, they also understand what other people mean by not telling the topic at first.

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Exempli gratia, when two people are Manchester United fans and last night was MU vs Newcastle match. And the next day, they met and one of them said, “I didn’t watch, how?”. The other replied, “Huh, fucked up”.

As a friend and have in common a favourite football club, the conversation like that is very easy for them to understand. But, not for us or anyone other than them. Like from the question: “I didn’t watch, how?”, what have you watched? How what?

In my work at, I and colleagues research for it. And we agreed so far only 3 + 1 reasons why humans can easily understand what other people are saying.


A human brain seems to have a dictionary of intentions and somehow when people say something, our brain can classify it to an intention. For example, when someone say “Hi” or “Hello”, we can recognize that as a greeting intention.

From birth we’re trained from the social environment to add every intention of everyone we met. So, to classify a sentence into an intention from someone is usually very dependent on the social environment.


This is very interesting. An intention from a sentence can change based on what parameters it contains. Look at these 2 sentences:

  • “Did Jokowi win?”
  • “Did Liverpool win?”

Those sentences seems very similar. Just because Jokowi was replaced by Liverpool, an intent of that changed. From an intention about presidential election to football match. Again, somehow we as humans can recognize it.


Have you ever heard about decision tree? Or watched Black Mirror: Bandersnatch? Unconsciously, we can answer a question or respond to a statement based on a current active conversation context. What is it? Look at these conversations:

  • A: “Hi sir, would you like a cup of tea or coffee?”
  • B: “Coffee please”
  • A: “Sure. Do you want it cold or hot?”
  • B: “Cold”
The decision tree of that conversation

Imagine if someone suddenly offered you something cold or hot. Wtf, right? Therefore, at first he asked you to choose a cup of tea or coffee or something else maybe. A current active context when he is offered you something cold or hot, you know that it is a cup of coffee. So, that’s what is meant by the context of conversation.


Hmm… I’m still doubtful about this. Because memory is related to context, and we as humans can memorize the active context in a conversation. So, I think our memory is a part of the reasons why humans can understand a conversation.

That’s why we can understand when someone talks to remind us of something that happened. For example, when someone talked to us like, “Hi, did you bring something I ordered yesterday?” or when your girlfriend said, “You’re not like you used to be”. Then, our memories definitely try to remember what she or we did in the past.

In my work, we’re trying to make all these things make sense and are full of scientific reasons. engine works like a human brain that can understand conversations like all this. And the result of that, we made amazing chatbots on many chat platforms.

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