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

Giovanni Santostasi gsantostasi at gmail.com
Thu Apr 13 23:18:24 UTC 2023

Let me try to explain one more time why there are referents or at
least why they are not really what gives meaning to language.

I think the common understanding of referent is that certain words
(not all for sure, and this is an important point) refer or point to
certain objects in the real world. For example, when I say apple I
mean this particular fruit that has a given shape, size and color. The
idea then is that meaning than can be constructed because we know what
I'm talking about with somebody else when I refer to the word apple,
that is a real object in real life.
But this idea is completely naive and in fact, wrong in its conclusion
to what gives meaning to language.
Let's start with what I refer to really when I talk about an apple.
There are 7500 cultivars of apples according to wiki. By the way, I
had to google explicitly apple fruit because if you just google apple,
the company called logo comes up that is already a demonstration that
your naive idea of referent is indeed naive. If referent were so
important or necessary for language why this confusion about apple the
fruit or Apple the company?
How could you distinguish between the 2? Well in a google search you
can do referring to a general concept like fruit. But what fruit
refers to? There 1000s of fruits and some people do not consider or
know that a tomato is actually a fruit, so when they think about fruit
they don't think about tomatoes but I do, why referents do not help
here? Going back to the apple, what type of apple? A yellow one, a
green one, a mature one? If the referent was this particular sure
thing why an apple can be small or large, different colors and shapes?
It has also pointed out several times by me and others that certain
words we use in the language have no real referents in physical
reality like love, thinking, dragon and so on. Where are the referents
here? I have given examples of how one can use completely abstracts
symbols to build a language and you ignore these examples. You
stubbornly say some stuff like "we use referents to give meaning to
language" when it has been shown it not the case. Simply because it is
something you think it is important to distinguish as from the
machines. Did you ask GPT-4 to draw you an apple? It can be done using

On Thu, Apr 13, 2023 at 3:16 PM Gordon Swobe <gordon.swobe at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Thu, Apr 13, 2023 at 3:46 PM Giovanni Santostasi <gsantostasi at gmail.com> wrote:
>> I think my analogy is completely relevant. Science is not supposed to reproduce perfectly the territory, it is not a limitation but a feature. I went into detail about why it is so.
>> Can you please address this and explain why I'm wrong?
> Honestly, Gio, I do not find conversations with you to be very productive. I think you would say up is down and white is black if it would support your zealous belief that language models have consciousness.
> You lost me when you disagreed with my very simple argument that words have referents. That words have referents is hardly even an argument. It is more like an observation. When you say a word, you mean something, and that something that you mean is the referent. It is what gives the word meaning in your own mind. It could be an object that you perceive or imagine, or it could be an abstract idea. It is whatever the word stands for.
> In any case, Nagel is perfectly well aware of how science is useful for giving us objective explanations of the objective world.
> > If you don't like what science does and it is then invent your own epistemology,
> Hardly my own idea, the "explanatory gap" (usually used in reference to Nagel) is more or less another way of saying "the hard problem of consciousness" (usually used in reference to David Chalmers). Roger Penrose has a similar idea as do many other philosophers of mind and science who have looked at the problem of explaining how minds have subjective conscious experience.
> -gts

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