BMAI friends. The following ramble is my first cut at making sense of the grave role racial (and other) bias is playing in the world today. This was prompted by comments I see daily from my family and friends on social media. Thinking about the great lack of self- and group-awareness many of the commenters display, I turned my scope inward. How do my own innate, evolved biases slant me to take my group’s and my own privileges for granted and make invalid assumptions about those I perceive (subconsciously or explicitly) to be ‘the other’? I put this forward to start a discussion and hope you will contribute your own insights and references. Feel free to post comments or even insert questions, comments, or new text directly into my text. Of course, you can create your own new posts as well. Thanks.
An MIT Technology Review article introduces the man responsible for the 30-year-old deep learning approach, explains what deep machine learning is, and questions whether deep learning may be the last significant innovation in the AI field. The article also touches on a potential way forward for developing AIs with qualities more analogous to the human brain’s functioning.
“Although supernatural beliefs often paint a peculiar picture about the physical world, the possibility that the beliefs might be based on inadequate understanding of the non-social world has not received research attention. In this study (N = 258), we therefore examined how physical-world skills and knowledge predict religious and paranormal beliefs. The results showed that supernatural beliefs correlated with all variables that were included, namely, with low systemizing, poor intuitive physics skills, poor mechanical ability, poor mental rotation, low school grades in mathematics and physics, poor common knowledge about physical and biological phenomena, intuitive and analytical thinking styles, and in particular, with assigning mentality to non-mental phenomena. Regression analyses indicated that the strongest predictors of the beliefs were overall physical capability (a factor representing most physical skills, interests, and knowledge) and intuitive thinking style.”
Lakoff’s last article was published in this open access Ebook edited by Seana Coulson and Vicky T. Lai, published by Frontiers Media SA in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience (March, 2016). The blurb:
 Arbib, M. A. (1989). The metaphorical brain 2: Neural networks and beyond. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
 Gibbs Jr, R. W. (Ed.). (2008). The Cambridge handbook of metaphor and thought. Cambridge University Press.
 Sweetser, Eve E. “Grammaticalization and semantic bleaching.” Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society. Vol. 14. 2011.
 Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1999). Philosophy in the flesh: The embodied mind and its challenge to western thought.
 Coulson, S. (2008). Metaphor comprehension and the brain. The Cambridge handbook of metaphor and thought, 177-194.
 Winner, E., & Gardner, H. (1977). The comprehension of metaphor in brain-damaged patients. Brain, 100(4), 717-729.
 Coulson, S., & Van Petten, C. (2007). A special role for the right hemisphere in metaphor comprehension?: ERP evidence from hemifield presentation. Brain Research, 1146, 128-145.
 Lai, V. T., Curran, T., & Menn, L. (2009). Comprehending conventional and novel metaphors: An ERP study. Brain Research, 1284, 145-155.
 Schmidt, G. L., Kranjec, A., Cardillo, E. R., & Chatterjee, A. (2010). Beyond laterality: a critical assessment of research on the neural basis of metaphor. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 16(01), 1-5.
 Desai, R. H., Binder, J. R., Conant, L. L., Mano, Q. R., & Seidenberg, M. S. (2011). The neural career of sensory-motor metaphors. Journal of Cognitive Neurosc., 23(9), 2376
By George Lakoff, Frontiers in Human Neureoscience, Hypothesis and Theory Article (link), 2014. Introduction: “An overview of the basics of metaphorical thought and language from the perspective of Neurocognition, the integrated interdisciplinary study of how conceptual thought and language work in the brain. The paper outlines a theory of metaphor circuitry and discusses how everyday reason makes use of embodied metaphor circuitry.” Also see the section on experimental results for the studies.
In this 4-minute clip Lakoff summarizes how philosophy is changed by cognitive science. Particular philosophies get attached to a root metaphor (or blend) that entails certain premises and conclude that it is reality in toto without going further to understand that other metaphors entail different premises with equally logical conclusions. The embodied thesis helps us understand how our body-minds work to correct many of philosophy’s metaphysical assumptions while providing a postmetaphysical frame for an empirical, embodied and multifarious philosophy.
I know, to free will or not to free will, that is the hackneyed question debated in philosophical circles since we learned how to talk. But here’s a cognitive neuroscientist’s research on “how neuronal code underlies top-down mental causation.” It’s a long video, over 2 hours, and I have yet to complete it. Here is Peter Tse’s CV. Here is his book on the topic is. Here is a good summary of Tse’s work on the topic.
I’m integrating a file-sharing capability into this site. For it and posts, I would like to implement a hierarchy of topical categories. A structured set of terms (taxonomy) will make it easier for us to categorize new content and find existing content. If you are aware of existing taxonomies we might borrow from, please provide links in comments to this post. I propose we start with a relatively high-level taxonomy of categories (limited to two or three levels) and use less-formal tags for highly-specific and infrequently used labels. If we need to amend or grow the taxonomy of categories later, we can easily do so.
If you were not aware, web content platforms like the one (WordPress) this site is built on use two methods for labeling and organizing content items.
The more formal method is a hierarchy of pre-determined categories. When creating posts or uploading files or media, authors select relevant categories from a list. A category hierarchy might include the following, for example:
- genetic engineering
- group selection
- natural selection
The content author could choose any or all of the relevant categories but usually would select at least the lowest (most embedded) category from the hierarchy. Once content is associated with a category, it’s possible for search tools and grouped, sorted, and filtered views to improve the findability of topical content.
The informal method is tagging (also called folksonomy). Authors associate terms with their content in a more ad hoc way. Tags usually display under a web article’s title and in interactive tag clouds like the one on the right side of our site’s pages.
Some taxonomies we could consider:
- Wikipedia Neuroscience topics
- Wikipedia Artificial Intelligence topics
- Wikipedia Evolutionary Biology topics
- Wikipedia Psychology topics
- Brain Science Podcast categories
- Society for Science & The Public topics
Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2017; 11: 126. Some excerpts:
“In this article we suggest the idea that the processing of self-referential stimuli in cortical midline structures (CMS) may represent an important part of the conscious self, which may be supplemented by an unconscious part of the self that has been called an ’embodied mind’ (Varela et al., 1991), which relies on other brain structures.”
“When we describe the self as structure and organization we understand it as a system. But the concept of the embodied self states that the self or cognition is not an activity of the mind alone, but is distributed across the entire situation including mind, body, environment (e.g., Beer, 1995), thereby pointing to an embodied and situated self.”
“Furthermore, we argue that through embodiment the self is also embedded in the environment. This means that our self is not isolated but intrinsically social. […] Hence, the self should not be understood as an entity located somewhere in the brain, isolated from both the body and the environment. In contrast, the self can be seen as a brain-based neurosocial structure and organization, always linked to the environment (or the social sphere) via embodiment and embeddedness.”
It occurred to me that memes are a lot like frames as Lakoff describes them. Lakoff has done extensive cognitive scientific work on schemas, metaphors and frames. Check out this lengthy article in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2014; 8: 958, “Mapping the brain’s metaphor circuitry.” Even though they don’t relate this to the concept of memes, there are some striking similarities. E.g.:
“Reddy had found that the abstract concepts of communication and ideas are understood via a conceptual metaphor: Ideas Are Objects; Language Is a Container for Idea-Objects; Communication Is Sending Idea-Objects in Language-Containers.”