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

Ben Zaiboc ben at zaiboc.net
Sun Apr 16 13:38:56 UTC 2023

On 16/04/2023 05:07, Gordon Swobe wrote:
> Please explain to me how the association of one word with another or 
> others tells me anything about the meaning of any if I know the 
> meaning of none.

Well, you're kind of begging the question here (as well as grossly 
oversimplifying). What does 'meaning' mean? I suggest that you do know 
the meaning of a lot of things, but only by virtue of those 'things' 
(mental tokens, let's call them, but you could use Words, Symbols, etc.) 
being associated with other tokens such as memories and sensory inputs. 
So how do you know what a 'chair' is? You have a whole bunch of tokens 
associated with other tokens that represent things like how a chair 
looks, how it feels to sit in one, that overstuffed chair that your 
aunty used to have, someone telling you that chairs can be used to build 
a fort in the kitchen, trying to buid a fort in the kitchen out of 
chairs but failing because you didn't have enough, the fact that you 
know many chairs are made of wood, but some are made of steel or 
plastic, your understanding that wood and plastic can burn but steel 
normally doesn't, a long pointless argument you had with someone over 
whether a bench is a chair, musing about whether a chairman has to 
actually sit in a chair or not, I can go on for pages in this vein, I 
hope you get the idea.

How you 'know' what a chair is, is formed solely from these associations 
with other mental tokens, and the complete set of them is unique to you 
and your own experiences (which includes reading about things, talking 
to people as well as sitting on things and seeing pictures and even 
seeing chairs). They are all encoded as patterns in your brain, which 
are in turn linked to the tokens which represent words like chair, 
settee, sofa, bench, stool, and so on, and abstracted into another token 
that could be called "things to sit on", or even "chairs".

Nowhere in the process is the word "chair" directly linked to an actual 
chair. There is no 'grounding', there are multiple associations.


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