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Conceptual engineering: the revolution in philosophy you've never heard of

There is a description of human intelligence that may be more suitable to discussion of concepts.

Each column in the neocortex—whether it represents visual input, tactile input, auditory input, language, or high-level thought—must have neurons that represent reference frames and locations. 

Up to that point, most neuroscientists, including me, thought that the neocortex primarily processed sensory input. What I realized that day is that we need to think of the neocortex as primarily processing reference frames. Most of the circuitry is there to create reference frames and track locations. Sensory input is of course essential. As I will explain in coming chapters, the brain builds models of the world by associating sensory input with locations in reference frames.

-- Hawkins, Jeff. A Thousand Brains (p. 50). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.


The hypothesis I explore in this chapter is that the brain arranges all knowledge using reference frames, and that thinking is a form of moving. Thinking occurs when we activate successive locations in reference frames.

-- Hawkins, (p. 71).


If everything we know is stored in reference frames, then to recall stored knowledge we have to activate the appropriate locations in the appropriate reference frames. Thinking occurs when the neurons invoke location after location in a reference frame, bringing to mind what was stored in each location. The succession of thoughts that we experience when thinking is analogous to the (...) succession of things we see when we walk about a town.

-- Hawkins, (p. 73).

With this description of human intelligence, a concept could be unbundled into stimulus (sensory input) + reference frame.

For example, neocortex creates reference frames for specific uses, which informs the linkage between concepts and use. Worth highlighting here that the same stimulus may be linked to different reference frames in people, resulting in different use.

Additionally, the nature of how the neocortex stores information (sparse distributed representation (SDR)) informs the stretchiness of concepts, SDRs being used for representation of both the stimulus and the reference frames.