[ExI] GPT-4 on its inability to solve the symbol grounding problem

Giovanni Santostasi gsantostasi at gmail.com
Wed Apr 5 21:17:21 UTC 2023

Others have said that it seems you are basically repeating the same thing
over and over again without engaging in a real conversation with the people
that disagree with you. You are doing the same here. I just gave you
examples of how it seems we are doing the opposite of what you are saying.
To abstract from a physical sensation of an object like an apple to the
general idea of an apple it seems is actually where the power of language
is, not the fact that it needs an apple to make sense.
think it is not?
I can do this with anything even very abstract things like 1 and 0. All
that you need is to have an experience (or differentiate between states) of
on and off that a computer can have certainly.
You can build an entire language and communicate with another entity just
based on this.
Can you discuss this example instead of repeating your mantras?
I agree that from an evolutionary point of view, we evolved language after
being able to recognize objects, for example, eatable fruits vs rocks, but
that doesn't require language. Language came later as an emergent
property of different skills and abilities we developed to survive in the
world that does require making contact with the real world. But language is
exactly the opposite of what you think it is. It is actually getting away
from the concreteness of things. It doesn't need referents at all. I gave
you examples of this, I'm not just making this statement out of dogma. In
the example of 0s and 1s
based communication example GPT-4 gave us where is the referent?
Please address this issue directly instead of going around it.


On Wed, Apr 5, 2023 at 1:47 PM Gordon Swobe <gordon.swobe at gmail.com> wrote:

> You are referring here to the ancient problem of universals and
> particulars. Philosophers have been debating it since Plato.
> The bottom line, Gio, is that words refer to things and ideas. In and of
> themselves -- outside of the context of those things and ideas -- words are
> empty symbols with no meaning.
> -gts
> On Wed, Apr 5, 2023 at 2:05 PM Giovanni Santostasi via extropy-chat <
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>> Gordon,
>> In fact, now that I'm thinking about it, it is the exact opposite of what
>> you say. Referents are not just not necessary for the language but because
>> of language we can actually make the association between abstract ideas in
>> our head and the object in the external world. We can associate a physical
>> apple with an apple because we are able to abstract in the first place that
>> is what is the real essence of language. Abstraction is the ability to
>> extract essential properties of an event, object, or another abstract idea
>> beyond the immediate physical characteristics of the object of abstraction.
>> This is what we do when we see 1 apple and say 1 or 1 apple and 1 orange
>> and say 2.
>> I would say that language allows to actually recognize objects in the
>> world as objects in a given category or give them names or qualities. You
>> can still perceive an apple as something, you can smell it and taste it and
>> maybe a lower animal can associate an apple with something good to eat but
>> it would not be able to do the association with a given word or idea
>> because it cannot do the abstraction to a general concept of an apple. That
>> is what language is about, that is the opposite of what you claim. Without
>> language (creating abstract ideas and generalization in our head) there is
>> no object to refer to, not the other way around.
>> Giovanni
>> On Wed, Apr 5, 2023 at 12:29 PM Giovanni Santostasi <
>> gsantostasi at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> Gordon,
>>> you say: By referents, I mean the things and ideas outside of language
>>> to which words point. If you hold an apple in your hand and say "this is an
>>> apple," the apple is the referent that gives your word "apple" meaning.
>>> Absolutely not. This is not how language works.
>>> It takes a long time for a child, that is strongly wired to learn
>>> language, to understand what you mean when you point to them an apple and
>>> say "apple". It also requires a certain level of brain development.
>>> Teaching children colors is even more difficult and requires more time. The
>>> difficulty is exactly the opposite of what you are saying is the essence
>>> and importance of having referents. It is all in the ABSTRACTION that is
>>> needed to actually make the association.
>>> This has been pointed out to you many times (also to Brent with its
>>> insistence on quality of redness nonsense). It takes time to make the
>>> association between what an adult calls an apple and what a child sees.
>>> What is the essence of an apple? It is being round? Being a round
>>> eatable object (so different from a round ball)? What about an orange? That
>>> is another round eatable object, but it is not an apple because... What
>>> about an apple in a picture vs a real apple? What about our dog called
>>> Apple? You understand what I'm trying to express. It is not as easy as you
>>> think to associate the apple with an object because it is a complex process
>>> that has basically almost nothing to do with the referent itself. The
>>> referent plays very little role and it is not at all what gives language
>>> meaning and power. It is all in the ABSTRACTIONS, all the relationships at
>>> higher levels (in fact statistical ones that we calculate approximately in
>>> our brain).
>>> This is why we can give meaning to things that are abstract in the first
>>> place like love or meaning itself.
>>> This is why we can imagine dragons, flying pigs, and so on. This is why
>>> languages can be bootstrapped from a single axiom or definition (even an
>>> arbitrary one) as one does with the null set in mathematics.
>>> I have looked for somebody writing a paper on how one can bootstrap an
>>> entire language from something similar to the null set, it is probably
>>> somewhere there but if not one day I will try it myself. But mathematics
>>> derived from the null set is at least a counterexample to your statement
>>> that language needs referents for meaning to emerge.
>>> Also one has to be clever on how to use GPT-4 on these topics.
>>> Instead of asking if it is conscious or understands language do tests to
>>> see if it does.
>>> One test I did was to ask to imagine a conversation between beings in
>>> different dimensions that don't even share the same laws of physics let
>>> alone common possible referents like chemical elements or things like rocks
>>> or stars. It gave me a very interesting example of using a series of 0s and
>>> 1s in a given sequence to let the other entity know they understood similar
>>> and different, following a sequence in time, yes, no, and so on. It was an
>>> incredibly fascinating example because it shows how you could communicate
>>> with another being with almost no referents in common and needing just a
>>> few fundamental abstract ideas as different and similar that don't need any
>>> rocks to be defined. One can see that once you establish, "I'm here", "I
>>> understand", "Yes", "No", "same", and "different" one can little by little
>>> build an entire language with basically no physical referents.
>>> GPT-4 came up with that.
>>> So you are simply wrong Gordon. You have an example above from GPT-4
>>> that shows referents may be useful for survival in biological beings like
>>> us but they are completely unnecessary for language and meaning.
>>> The case should be closed.
>>> Giovanni
>>> On Wed, Apr 5, 2023 at 7:20 AM BillK via extropy-chat <
>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>>> On Wed, 5 Apr 2023 at 14:20, spike jones via extropy-chat
>>>> <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>>> >
>>>> > From: extropy-chat <extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org> On
>>>> Behalf Of Jason Resch via extropy-chat
>>>> > >…This is a phenomenon we are all subject to and which we should all
>>>> be aware of called cognitive dissonance. It can occur whenever our brains
>>>> encounter information perceived as threatening to our existing beliefs
>>>> …Jason
>>>> >
>>>> > Ja.  In our world today, we are in a culture war in which many of our
>>>> most fundamental beliefs are being challenged.  Those with the most
>>>> cognitive dissonance see offense in what looks like perfectly innocuous
>>>> observations to those who have little if any cog-dis.  Thx Jason.
>>>> >
>>>> > spike
>>>> > _______________________________________________
>>>> No problem.   It just takes a bit of practice.  :)
>>>> Quote:
>>>> “Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said. 'One can't believe
>>>> impossible things.'
>>>> I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was
>>>> your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've
>>>> believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!”
>>>> ― Lewis Carroll
>>>> ---------------
>>>> BillK
>>>> _______________________________________________
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