Jaron Lanier: what do metaphors signify?

Since reading and linking to his Edge article entitled "Digital Maoism," I've enjoyed catching up with Jaron Lanier. On the way to a business meeting this weekend, I purchased the latest Discover at an airport news stand for "Jaron's World," his column, based largely on its description in the table of contents: "Meet the other William Shakespeare, the early bard of neuroscience."

Discussing the meaning of meaning, Lanier has some interesting thoughts on what metaphors say about language development, connecting them with synesthesia, and then asks this really terrific question:

Can meaning be described compactly and precisely, or is it something that can emerge only approximately from statistical associations between large number of components?

Don't look to me for an answer.

But I love how he takes a basic proposition - metaphors tell us something about language development - and makes it concrete: is meaning an algorithm or emergent? Does it produce or flow from language? What, finally, do metaphors signify?

He also possesses a wry humanism, as in his December column where, musing about how we have managed to modify the evolutionary prime directive to procreate asks, is this any way to run a species?


Wikipedia: emergent, algorithm, post-symbolic Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: emergence