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

Jason Resch jasonresch at gmail.com
Tue Apr 11 10:20:08 UTC 2023

On Tue, Apr 11, 2023, 5:48 AM Giovanni Santostasi <gsantostasi at gmail.com>

> *What do you think happens as one replaces biological neurons in their
> visual cortex one by one, with artificial digital/silicon ones? Do you,
> like Searle, believe that you would outwardly behave the same, yet
> internally feel like you want to cry out, "help, I'm going blind!", but be
> unable to say anything?*Did really Searle say this?

“Searle (1992) discusses a thought experiment like this one, and suggests
the following possibility:
[A]s the silicon is progressively implanted into your dwindling brain, you
find that the area of your conscious experience is shrinking but that this
shows no effect on your external behavior. You find, to your total
amazement, that you are indeed losing control of your external behavior.
You find, for example, that when the doctors test your vision, you hear
them say, “We are holding up a red object in front of you; please tell us
what you see.” You want to cry out, “I can’t see anything. I’m going
totally blind.” But you hear your voice saying in a way that is completely
out of your control, “I see a red object in front of me.” If we carry the
thought-experiment to the limit, we fet a much more depressing result than
lat time. We imagine that your conscious experience slowly shrinks to
nothing, while your externally observable behavior remains the same. (pp.

Here, Searle embraces the possibility of fading qualia, but suggests that
such a system need not be mistaken in its beliefs about its experience. The
system might have true beliefs about its experience; it is just that these
beliefs are impotent to affect its behavior.
It seems that this possibility can be ruled out, however. There is simply
no room in the system for any new beliefs to be formed. Unless one is a
dualist of a very strong variety, this sort of difference in belief must be
reflected in the functioning of a system–perhaps not in behavior, but at
least in some process. But this system is identical to the original system
(me) at a fine grain. There is simply no room for new beliefs such as “I
can’t see anything,” new desires such as the desire to cry out, and other
new cognitive states such as amazement. Nothing in the physical system can
correspond to that amazement. There is no room for it in the neurons, which
after all are identical to a subset of neurons supporting the usual
beliefs; and Searle is surely not suggesting that the silicon replacement
is itself supporting the new beliefs! Failing a remarkable, magical
interaction effect between neurons and silicon–and one that does not
manifest itself anywhere in processing, as organization is preserved
throughout–such new beliefs will not arise.”
-- David Chalmers in "The Conscious Mind" (1996)

Why do people even listen to him?

I think he speaks to the not insignificant crowd of people who believe no
(non-human / non-biological) machine can be conscious. E.g. the belief that
gives rise to this sentiment:

Pribram (1976), when he wrote:
“I tend to view animals, especially furry animals, as conscious-not plants,
not inanimate crystals, not computers. This might be termed the "cuddliness
criterion" for consciousness. My reasons are practical: it makes little
difference at present whether computers are conscious or not. (p. 298)”

Does he know about cochlear implants?

Good question, I wonder if anyone has asked him. Based on the above he must
think they're auditory p-zombies, or at least he would if they had an
artificial auditory cortex.

What do you think Gordon? Would someone with a prosthetic auditory cortex
made of digital electronics not be able to hear, although they would still
give others around them every appearance that they could?

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