Literal ‘Maps of Meaning’

I’m currently listening to Sam Harris talking to Barbara Tversky. They are dealing with the roots (or maybe routes?) of human cognition. Very interesting stuff! I’d come across the concept of Grid and Place cells before, probably during a stint of random, omnivorous, browsing. Listening, it occurred to me that if the brain uses the same neural architecture to map concepts and meanings as it does locations and routes in physical space—which is what they are discussing in the podcast, hence the poor pun above—then perhaps this is why language fails so often to dissuade people of their existing misconceptions?

If the brain’s architecture treats ideas and physical space the same way… then once a ‘Map’ is internalized it may be very difficult to re-write?

You would have a hard time persuading me that a familiar river or mountain no-longer exists.

Things in the physical world do change, but slowly – or catastrophically for big important solid things. When these go, it tends to be in very tangible significant ways; like flood, fire, or eruption.

If this conjecture holds, it would explain why people are so reluctant to give up ideas which have become central, familiar cognitive landmarks in their lives.

Words are puny ammunition when used against solid real things like mountains.

Perhaps people need to see—or touch—their fallacies before they can learn?

On the bright side, rising waters and burning forests are both compellingly palpable events, so may prove very effective at disabusing people of their misconceptions.

See! It all turns out all right in the end! 🙂


If you enjoyed this short essay, please go over to Medium and give me a ‘clap’ or two…

More on Grid and Place cells:
“The two parts of the brain’s navigational system are roughly analogous to the split functionality of modern GPS units. Grid cells help to fix the individual’s coordinates, while place cells are believed to organize memories about specific locations. Ongoing research is probing the details of how grid cells and place cells work together.”

Sam Harris Podcast:

Deep Disruption – Tech Talk by Toby Weston

I was recently invited to speak at a conference on Enterprise Software development in Frankfurt.
It was a crossover talk where I presented a vision of the future drawing from both the Sci-Fi and the corporate worlds…

“With the tech-world speeding up around us, even short term predictions are starting to sound like Science Fiction!”

Spring 2019 on Artificial Intelligence, Synthetic Scrum Teams, and the future of Software Development:

Teenage Dolphins Get High on Puffer Fish Toxin

I’m not in anyway surprised!

Like us, they are conscious animals facing down a stark, brutal, universe… whatever works to take the edge off.

Bottom line these creatures are people; Singularity’s Children like us
…which happens to be one of the key themes in my books.

Also reminds me of this: “Parrot tells rescuer to [email protected]&K Off!”