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

Jason Resch jasonresch at gmail.com
Mon Apr 10 21:23:51 UTC 2023

On Mon, Apr 10, 2023 at 3:24 PM Gordon Swobe <gordon.swobe at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Mon, Apr 10, 2023 at 1:53 PM Jason Resch via extropy-chat <
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>> What is the simplest possible conscious state that you can imagine? What
>> are its contents?
Thank you for this answer.

> It might be, for example, a brief sensation and awareness of pain. Let us
> say the pain of a toothache. I am an entirely unconscious being having no
> subjective first person experience whatsoever and no awareness of such,
> then for a moment, I become conscious and feel and note the subjective
> experience of a toothache, then fall back into unconsciousness.
In my view, pain is not simple, but rather a highly complex state,
involving many separate brain regions. Consider these passages on pain, for

Paul Brand, a surgeon and author on the subject of pain recounted the case
of a woman who had suffered with a severe and chronic pain for more than a
decade: She agreed to a surgery that would separate the neural pathways
between her frontal lobes and the rest of her brain. By all accounts the
surgery was a success. Brand visited the woman a year later, and inquired
about her pain. She said, “Oh, yes, it’s still there. I just don't worry
about it anymore.” While smiling she added, “In fact, it's still agonizing.
But I don't mind.

This shows that the sensation of pain can be perceived in a manner that is
separate from the unpleasantness of pain. As Minksy writes

"As I see it, feelings are not strange alien things. It is precisely those
cognitive changes themselves that constitute what 'hurting' is––and this
also includes all those clumsy attempts to represent and summarize those
changes. The big mistake comes from looking for some single, simple,
'essence' of hurting, rather than recognizing that this is the word we use
for complex rearrangement of our disposition of resources."

As we know, pains can be of various types, such as dull, sharp, burning,
aching, etc. and also vary in intensity and location. A huge amount of
information is encoded in one's knowledge of pain, and to perceive it fully
requires the involvement and intercommunication of various disparate brain

Some examples of simpler states of human consciousness:

   - A groggy person just waking, conscious only of the light shining in
   their eyes
   - A trained monk in quiet thoughtless solitude with eyes closed and a
   mind empty of thoughts
   - A person in a sensory deprivation tank who presses and feels the light
   touch of one finger on the back of their opposite hand and focuses on this
   feeling only

Then you might consider even simpler states of consciousness (assuming, as
you said, you believe other things besides humans are conscious):

   - The consciousness of a mouse
   - The consciousness of a slug
   - The consciousness of a nematode

Do you think the above are conscious and that they are simpler than human
consciousness? Is it possible to go any simpler in your view?

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