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Mariana Soffer (F, 41)
Buenos Aires, AR
Immortal since Feb 16, 2010
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I am an artificial intelligence researcher, studied in California a Master in Information Science and specialized in Genetic research there. Currently I am doing research on NLP (natural language processing), particularly in the opinion mining area. I am also interested in neuroscience, Buddhism, literature, music, anthropology among other things.
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    Reflections about Meaning
    Project: The Total Library

    The material and the spiritual are so closely entwined in the human mind that making meaning for us almost seems like an involuntary act. It is near impossible to dissociate the two while making our reality comprehensible to us which is to give it meaning. 'Meaning' verily is elicited by the brain by putting the material and spiritual within a unified lens to conjure an image within our minds that makes sense - Id it is


    First, we need to examine “meaning” itself, and expose a mistake, a very basic mistake, in how many people think about it. To say that some event means something without at least some implicit understanding of who it means something to is to express an incomplete idea, no different than sentence fragments declaring that “Went to the bank” or “Exploded.” Without first specifying a particular subject and/or object, the very idea of meaning is incoherent.

    Nature is concrete reality, we presume, something more real than abstraction. But if nature is more real than abstraction, what use is abstraction? Perhaps it is the case that abstraction is more real than "nature". Perhaps abstraction can be used to extend what is effortlessly given to us. Perhaps abstraction can be employed to usefully transform what is now presented to us without effort as the object. Maybe we can perceive with our (collectively-expanded) imagination levels of reality that are hidden, not so much from our senses, as by our senses.

    We think we live in the "objective" world, but we do not. The objective world is something that has been conjured up for us recently - absurdly recently, from the perspective of evolutionary biology - by the processes of science operating over a span of five centuries (or, perhaps, to give the Greeks their due, over the last thirty centuries). This does not mean that the objective world is not real, even though theories about its nature are in constant flux. What it does mean is that the environment of human beings might well be regarded as "spiritual," as well as "material."

    Now if we give a closer look at reading, because it may be fundamental, about how the brain gives meaning to letters on a page has been fundamentally a mystery. New studies fill in some details on how the brains of proficient readers handle words. One suggestion is that a visual-processing area of the brain recognizes common words as whole units. Another, is that the brain operates two fast parallel systems for reading, linking visual recognition of words to speech.

    Changing the angle if we look at it from the traditional targets of scientific inquiry that are available to sensory analysis, localized in time and space, and simultaneously accessible to the individual experience of multiple observers (at least under carefully controlled conditions). Meaning, which can vary dramatically between observers, does not reveal itself in any such straightforward manner. It is therefore not clear that it can be addressed scientifically, even in principle. At least this is the classical argument. But what if meaning could be construed as a stable emergent consequence of the interaction of subjects, objects, elements or situations, conceived of from a more abstract point of reference than that commonly utilized?

    Tue, Mar 16, 2010  Permanent link

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    Wildcat     Wed, Mar 17, 2010  Permanent link
    no doubt we need a science of the contextual, a science of mental concepts. meaning is by and by an emergent phenomenon fluctuating within the flows of intersubjective experience. as I see it the very term emergence is the abstract point not of reference but of context observational attitude.
    'stable' is a very problematic terminology in this respect. meaning evolves, changes, bifurcates and expands continuously.
    nagash     Wed, Mar 17, 2010  Permanent link
    I think meaning is what our brain produces.
    The organic life, the laws of physics, the flow of time, what happens, how it happens... none have intrinsic meaning outside our brains. And no two brains give the same meaning to one thing, that's what we are always trying to achieve with language, art and society in general : universal meaning, or at least, shared values.

    but meaning is not necessarily always beneficial. like everything else, we have to balance how much meaning we tribute to things, for the sake of our own sanity. if you can't see meaning in life, you will probably end up depressed, apathetic and uninspired. but on the other hand, if you find meaning in every casual fact and every object is a symbol for something else, that will make you paranoid, delusional and ultimately you'll totally miss the concrete world for your abstract construction of reality...

    just some random thoughts on the subject... hope they mean something for you :)
    Mariana Soffer     Wed, Mar 17, 2010  Permanent link
    Nagash:
    Very interesting comment about meaning and the brain, I wrote the following in an old post of mine:

    I thought that consciousness as well as space and time could be thought as constructed frameworks, artificially generated contexts, and also as boundaries were existing entities can be identified. Actually one common definition of consciousness is a certain context or grouping of objects.
    It looks like space, time and consciousness were conceived by men. We might have thought that by creating them we where building the firsts universals, but indeed what we were doing was setting the foundations for globalization.

    Iin this post and it s comments I also refer about universals and what is the difference with global, you can check it out here.
    I found interesting also what you say about the influence of how we deal with meaning can have in our lives, never thought about that.
    Thanks.
    Mariana Soffer     Wed, Mar 17, 2010  Permanent link
    Wildcat:
    I agree with what you say about the meaning existing in the brain, you put that concept in very neat words.
    Since I do natural language processing, as you mentioned before I also think that context is fundamental, indeed I think is kind of everything, same way nodes in a network worth is given by connections and not with it s sole content.
    I also think meaning can be seen analogous to language because they are alive, they mix, separate, disapear, they are in constant movment, they can not be analized as if they where static things.
    Thanks a lot for colaborating with your toughts.
     
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