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

Will Steinberg steinberg.will at gmail.com
Wed Apr 5 21:46:04 UTC 2023

Also my bad @Gio, I started out there talking to you but switched to
generally addressing the argument Gordon is making.  Sorry for any confusion

On Wed, Apr 5, 2023 at 5:44 PM Will Steinberg <steinberg.will at gmail.com>

> Yes there's a strange primacy of 'objects' that people seem to imagine.
> There is a form that reflects a certain type of electromagnetic light.  We
> have a form that receives it.  Our form finds meaning in this by comparing
> it against everything else in its interior language system of
> electrochemical signals.  If all was red, there would be no red.  Red is
> found only in the difference.  ChatGPT also has an explicit understanding
> of when to use 'red'.  It must have this understanding because it would
> just spew total nonsense otherwise.  It doesn't really matter whether it
> has the same referents for red as we do, because in the end it is all
> information anyway.  Red does not exist in this world.
> Let me explain with a thought experiment, I call it "The English Room":
> There is a room with a microphone and speaker each both inside and out.
> The inner microphone passes anything said on it to the outer speaker by
> encoding it digitally, passing it through radio waves, and decoding it.
> The same happens for the outer microphone to the inner speaker.
> Your friend walks into the room and closes the door.  You start a
> conversation using the microphone and speaker on the outside.  Are you
> speaking with your friend?
> What I mean to say is that it is very difficult to philosophically
> separate the initial speaker (text corpus) and the final speaker
> (ChatGPT).  Would this experiment be different if you were speaking with 2
> people in 2 rooms and some algorithm determined the best answer for you?
> Really the philosophical issues here are much more than asking "is the
> algorithm sentient?"  We have to ask where the line of separation even is
> between the corpus and the response.  And to ask what happens when the
> consciousness of multiple people (provided through language) is condensed
> into one signal.  Is this any different from the way your brain works?  We
> also have multiple thought streams that internally interact with one
> another and produce a single result.  Would you say we aren't conscious
> because all we are doing is choosing a thought to speak from the many
> unspoken ones?
> The symbol grounding thing here is a total spook.  Whether there even is a
> 'referent' in a case you speak of is totally dependent on what boundaries
> you draw, but those boundaries don't affect what actually matters, which is
> the response.  I think that focusing on the symbol grounding is getting us
> further away from a real answer.
> On Wed, Apr 5, 2023, 5:23 PM Giovanni Santostasi via extropy-chat <
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>> Gordon,
>> 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.
>> you 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?
>> PS
>> 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.
>> Giovanni
>> 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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