[ExI] Meaningless Symbols

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Sun Jan 10 14:46:22 UTC 2010

2010/1/11 Ben Zaiboc <bbenzai at yahoo.com>:

> Google isn't a robot.  What a human can do *is* relevant to what a robot can do, because they both not only have a brain, but also a body. The word "move" is meaningless to Google because it has no experience of moving, so all it can do is relate it to another word in another language.
> To a system that does have the means of movement (whether that be via a real-world body or in a simulated environment), it has an experience of what moving is like.  That's the 'symbol grounding' it needs to make sense of the word.  It now has a meaning.
> "Using the word appropriately in every context" means that if you say "Could you move 2 metres to your left?" the system will be able to answer yes or no, and do it or not, depending on it's physical state and environment.  Moving 2 metres to the left is meaningless to Google, because Google doesn't have legs (or wheels, etc.).
> If you hooked Google up to a robotic (or virtual) body, and gave it the means to sense the environment, and move the body, and hooked up words to actions, then it would be capable of understanding (assigning meaning to) the words, because they would now have a context.

It gets a bit tricky when you talk about a virtual body in a virtual
environment. There may be a mapping between what happens in the
computer when it follows an instruction to move two metres to the left
and moving two metres to the left in the real world, but there is no
basis for saying that this is what the symbols in the computer "mean",
since there are also other possible mappings.

Stathis Papaioannou

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