Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have leveraged machine learning to interpret human brain scans, allowing the team to uncover the regions of the brain behind how abstract concepts, like justice, ethics and consciousness, form.
In this study, Just and his team scanned the brains of nine participants using a functional MRI. The team sifted through the data using machine learning tools to identify patterns for each of the 28 abstract concepts. They applied the machine learning algorithm to correctly identified each concept (with a mean rank accuracy of 0.82, where chance level is 0.50).
Just said these abstract concepts are constructed by three dimensions of meaning in the brain. The first dimension corresponds to regions associated with language. For example, the concept of ethics might be linked to other words like rules and morals. A person must first understand the words to construct the additional meaning of ethics. The second dimension defines abstract concepts in terms of reference, either to self or an external source. For example, spirituality refers to self, while causality is external to the self. The final dimension is rooted in social constructs. There is an inherent social component to the concepts of pride and gossip.
“It’s flashy to call this work mind reading,” Just said. “For me, it is proof that we have identified some of the elements of the brain’s indexing system — verbal representation, externality/internality and the social dimension — that our brains use to code concepts that have no physical manifestation in the world.” (1)
Trying to make sense of thoughts not based on sensual input is hard. But yet again, it may be so that the true source of these thought are the senses but in ways we cannot yet realize. The duality of the cosmos in the material and the non-material cosmos is an axiom taken for granted by both materialists and non-materialists alike. And yet, this axiom could be the source of all the issues we face.
Why should an abstract thought be irrelevant to the senses?
Why would the senses be only relevant to ‘objective’ things?
What is objective?
What is abstract?
In a world which is One, these opposites have the opposite meaning! Could there be anything more abstract than tables and abstract chairs? Close your eyes and they will go away. Could there be anything more tangible than ethics and morality? Close your eyes and you will still feel guilty.
In the world of One, there is no way to find anything objective but the subjective…
In the world of senses, there is no way to find anything subjective but the objective…
And you will see nothing…
Until you stop looking.