[ExI] Language models are like mirrors

Gordon Swobe gordon.swobe at gmail.com
Tue Apr 4 05:33:58 UTC 2023

Speaking of scare quotes, I have mentioned Emily Bender, Professor of
Computational Linguistics. She puts much effort into trying to rid the
world of such language as “the language model understands thus and so,” and
“the model comprehends thus and so” not only in speech by lay-people but
also in academic journals where it often appears. She calls such language
“hype” and I agree completely.

However, if people had the sense to put words like “understand” and
“comprehend” in scare-quotes like I did just there, she would probably be
fine with it.


On Mon, Apr 3, 2023 at 8:22 PM Gordon Swobe <gordon.swobe at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Mon, Apr 3, 2023 at 4:09 AM Ben Zaiboc via extropy-chat <
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>> I don't know if someone else has already noted this (I'm still catching
>> up on the recent flood of posts), but don't you consider it ironic that you
>> are using the systems own apparent understanding of itself to show that it
>> doesn't understand things?
> Yes, I've noticed this and mentioned that I find it not only ironic, but
> hilarious, that they are themselves explaining their limitations the same
> way I did on this list some 15 years ago when such things as ChatGPT were
> only hypothetical.
> Philosophers will often bracket or use scare-quotes as shortcuts to
> represent different senses of a word. When I agree that ChatGPT
> "understands" that it does not actually understand word meanings, this is
> only shorthand for my saying that the software identifies statistical
> relationships and patterns in English word-symbols that allow it to compose
> sentences and paragraphs and entire stories and many other kinds of
> documents that are meaningful to us but not to it. As ChatGPT-4 "agrees,"
> it functions as a highly sophisticated autocomplete feature not unlike what
> is found in any word processing software, just far more powerful as it has
> been trained on a massive amount of written material.
> -gts
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