Sticking my head above water here for a few minutes to note a particularly interesting initiative that came across my desk: The Noun Project.
As far as I can tell*, The Noun Project is a sort of marketplace where anyone can access and upload icons from designers around the world. And they do appear to be limited only by the imagination: in a one-minute scan of the site, I saw icons for hand dryers, a man summiting a mountain, needle-nose pliers, and a "paleo muffin."
For the most part, this strikes me as an advancement for humanity, and one with particular relevance to development, where we're often dealing with language and/or literacy barriers. There's no guarantee, of course, that these symbols will be universal (as anyone who has ever tried to Pictionary their way through a foreign market can attest), but they obviously have a lot more potential to be understood. For the most part, a person looks like a person looks like one of those bathroom door icons.
What might be more interesting in the long term, however, is the impact of this communication shift on our actual thought processes. These icons have the potential to turn our brains lazy, I'm afraid, with the shorthand that they provide - but they also provide semiotic layers that words can't necessarily. (To cite one example, some friends and I have lately become fascinated with a particular set of "stickers" on Facebook that features the incredibly strange Sunny Eggy,** which is a character with a fried egg for a head. Somehow, the exuberance of an egg yelling "Good Morning" sometimes conveys my feelings better than the words themselves. And yes, I am being totally serious.)
For a glimpse into this future, I suggest you watch this video. Note: a brief part of it is mildly NSFW, but nothing serious.
Eventually, perhaps we will all find that the English language is no longer sufficient to express the complexities of our thoughts. Just like Gina. Now that is a consequence worth assessing.
(H/t An Xiao Mina for the Noun Project link.)
*Note to site designers: the "About" page is pretty difficult to find. I did, but it took some effort.
**Fun fact: I was discussing these stickers with a friend who's based abroad, and she expressed fondness for them too. Subsequent discussion revealed that we were actually talking about two DIFFERENT sets of stickers featuring eggs, which is either a testament to human ingenuity or a sign that we need to destroy the Internet.