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

Jason Resch jasonresch at gmail.com
Tue Apr 18 15:30:36 UTC 2023

On Tue, Apr 18, 2023, 10:36 AM Brent Allsop via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> Yea, I apologize for being so tempted to always add the word "physical".
> I know there are far more Qualia arize from Function
> <https://canonizer.com/topic/88-Theories-of-Consciousness/18-Qualia-Emerge-from-Function>
> people and other non physicalists, than qualia are physical qualities
> <https://canonizer.com/topic/88-Theories-of-Consciousness/7-Qualia-are-Physical-Qualities>
> people like me.

No worries. I still think the question of "what is physical" needs some
exploration though. Is physics only relationships, is it only information?
Is it only computations? What, deep down, at the lowest levels, is 'stuff'?

I guess what I really mean is objectively observable.  Even if redness is
> some "function", it would still be a physical fact that a particular
> function had a redness quality, right?

I would say "it would be an objective fact that some function instantiates
a mind that perceives redness."

But I don't think this fact is necessarily accessible to anyone. There are
two firewalls at play: 1. the observer experiencing redness, cannot know
which function implements his mind. Due to a consequence of the
Church-Turing thesis (software cannot determine its own code or hardware).
2. Third-parties not experiencing redness but investigating the mind of
someone claiming to can never see into that person's mind to know what they
refer to when they get use the word "redness".

I don't know that anything can bridge this gulf.

  And even in that case, that function, operating on anything, would still
> be objectively observable with logic probes, and the like, right?

Yes from the third person view they can know the function, but they can't
access the first-person experience.

I have trouble understanding why you are so hostile to the possibility that
> an objective description of something in our brain could be a
> description of subjective redness.

Information comes in two kinds:

1. First-person knowledge: knowledge that comes from direct experience
which cannot be learned any other way — conscious and sensory experiences,
emotions, and feelings. This knowledge is not communicable, it must be felt
firsthand. For example, the smell of a rose, or the pain of a bee sting.

2. Third-person knowledge: knowledge that is shareable and communicable —
knowledge that can be found in books, or stored as facts. For example, the
population of Paris, or the height of Mt. Everest.

I am not hostile to the idea, but I have yet to see any evidence that it is
possible, and I have in the thinking about these issues, encountered
several compelling arguments that suggest it is impossible to share first
person experiences via descriptions. See my argument regarding Alice, Bob
and her friends.

This is not to say we can't objectively describe Alice's brain state, we
can. But that description of her brain state, or it's physical qualities,
or the functions behind it, when shares, are always perceived through the
lens of someone else's own subjectivity. Seeing a recording of Alice's
brain state, even memorizing it or computing it in your head, does not make
you Alice.

To think otherwise is what led Searle to believe computers couldn't be
consciousness, he thought if he simulated a mind by hand (or in his head),
that he would know how it feels to be that mind as it sees itself from the
inside. I think he was simply unaware of the limitations perspective
imposes on us, which draws a clear border between the outside view and the
inside view.

Or.... Please don't tell me you're a Substance Dualist
> <https://canonizer.com/topic/88-Theories-of-Consciousness/48-Substance-Dualism>,
> because you are definitely sounding like one, if subjective qualities
> aren't physical.

When you can define physical I can give you my answer. It's a nuanced topic.

For example, if everything is ultimately information, then the physical
could be information as seen from the outside while consciousness is
information from the inside. Is this a dualist or monist view?

Another example: functions are abstract and can be supported by things that
aren't physical as we would consider them: pure platonic mathematics, or
entirely different universes like The Game of Life. Is functionalism then a
form of dualism, or perhaps even idealism?

In general, I see each theory in the philosophy of mind as having something
it gets right, but usually also a few things it misses or doesn't get quite



For reference, here is a definitionnof "physical" that I am partial to, and
usually am operating under when I use the term:

"Given two objects A and B, we say that they [physically exist] for each
other if and only if, under certain auxiliary conditions, modifying the
state of A will affect the state of B, and vice versa."
-- Markus Müller in “Could the physical world be emergent instead of
fundamental, and why should we ask?” (2017)

This makes what's "physical" relative. Objects we consider as abstract
(e.g. other universes or mathematical structure) from a perspective inside
those structures, see those structures as concrete. And from their point of
view, our concretely existing universe exists for them only abstractly.

If you have another or perhaps better definition of what "physical" means,
could you share it?

> On Tue, Apr 18, 2023 at 6:15 AM Jason Resch via extropy-chat <
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>> On Tue, Apr 18, 2023, 7:35 AM Brent Allsop via extropy-chat <
>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>> You are making the same mistake here, when you say "physical qualities"
>>> don't exist, which Dennett makes when they say: "We don't have qualia, it
>>> just seems like we do."
>>> The seeming, or mistaken knowledge, is the qualia.  So the statement is
>>> self contradictory.
>>> If you know something, even if it is mistaken knowledge, that knowledge
>>> must be something physically real.
>> I would say I agree 100% with what you say above, but only if you take
>> out the two instances of "physically." The insertion of that word makes
>> what would otherwise make sense to me, something which I can't follow.
>> Could you describe what you mean by "physically" and why you feel it
>> important to use that word here? That is, could you explain why you say
>> "physical qualities" rather than "qualities", and "physically real" rather
>> than "real"?
>> Jason
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