[ExI] Symbol Grounding

Giovanni Santostasi gsantostasi at gmail.com
Tue Apr 25 08:55:31 UTC 2023

I met Umberto Eco in Bologna and we had an interesting conversation about
the concept of meaning in physics. I took a course in the semiotics of
exoterism (this is before he wrote the book The Foucault's Pendulum which
should be as famous as The Name of the Rose). By the way the Name of the
Rose title comes from a famous ancient riddle about naming things.

I didn't remember his exact position on the topic of referents but I knew
by his general ideas that he would have thought it is bull crap that
referents are needed for meaning and I was right. Here is a good article
explaining Eco's understanding of language as a code.


On Tue, Apr 25, 2023 at 1:37 AM Giovanni Santostasi <gsantostasi at gmail.com>

> Umberto Eco, that was one of the most profound semioticist called the
> grounding problem, "the referential fallacy". Language is just a
> self-referential code.
> https://literariness.org/2016/12/02/umberto-eco-and-the-semiotics/
> On Tue, Apr 25, 2023 at 12:18 AM Giovanni Santostasi <
> gsantostasi at gmail.com> wrote:
>> And here it is GPT like LLM that can interpret photos and even find the
>> humor in a picture. Is this enough grounding?
>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAjrpYjx0ps
>> On Mon, Apr 24, 2023 at 8:45 PM Giovanni Santostasi <
>> gsantostasi at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> Brent,
>>> Your jargon is impenetrable and also when you use jargon you need to
>>> define what you mean. I may not always use the most precise language in the
>>> context of these informal emails but I don't use some jargon that I made up
>>> myself.
>>> For example with  *"The strawberries in the illusion are made of grey
>>> elements but our brain says they are red."* I simply mean what the
>>> everyday language meaning of these words is. Now I understand that you have
>>> a problem with "the brain says they are red". I can explain what this
>>> means.
>>> Somehow the brain has a "code" for red. That code is actuated in the
>>> experience of redness. It is not just a code but it produces an action,
>>> exactly like an actuator does. The result of the actuation is the sensation
>>> of redness.
>>> What the code consist of is almost surely (we have already a lot of
>>> evidence to support this) a particular firing pattern in the brain.
>>> Consider that this firing pattern is different for each individual up to a
>>> point. It is both universal (in the sense that probably involves similar
>>> brain regions, sequences, and so on) and also very individualized. These
>>> are well-known things in neuroscience it is not that we don't know anything
>>> about how these things work.
>>> What I was trying to express with "brain says" is that some high-level
>>> process in the brain, probably involving the prefrontal cortex alerts the
>>> rest of the brain of the presence of the color red in the external
>>> environment. And for the color red I really mean the range of wavelengths
>>> that we associate with the experience of perceiving red, which you call
>>> redness (I even like this term by the way, it is a good contribution to the
>>> discussion).
>>> But you can see that in the case of the illusion, there is a disconnect
>>> between the real physical external information and the interpretation of
>>> the brain. This is why an illusion. Something went wrong in the information
>>> processing of the brain and it was tricked to assign redness to something
>>> that is not red. Something was lost in translation. You claimed many times
>>> that to label something RED needs a dictionary and the illusion shows that
>>> the perception of red, what you call redness is also a sort of translation
>>> and in the case of the strawberry illusion is the wrong translation.
>>> Do you understand what I try to communicate?
>>> If you have a different argument of what is going on let me understand
>>> it but what you wrote in your previous email is not achieving this goal at
>>> all. For example, let's take a look at this sentence:
>>> *the result is knowledge of strawberries that has a form of that
>>> person's redness quality,*I have no clue what you mean, can you try to
>>> do what I just did? I told you that I think there is some failure in the
>>> usual code that interprets colors (because maybe color association was
>>> learned under a certain type of lighting and if you change lighting
>>> conditions the code fails), I'm implying that color processing is a
>>> complicated and prone to failure process, that is made of the connections
>>> between neurons and their exchange of information, filtering, signal
>>> processing and so on and on.
>>> This is not even an invention of mine, we know this is more or less how
>>> the brain works. We maybe do not to the point where it is fully understood
>>> in all the details (neuroscience is like that, it can be pretty vague in
>>> comparison with physics for example) but we know the general principles. We
>>> have enough experience with how we process data via signal processing,
>>> coding, and neural network to realize that these types of illusions are to
>>> be expected, it is actually a miracle they don't happen more often.
>>> While what you do is only use a few jargon words.
>>> Can you explain a plausible mechanism that is consistent with your view
>>> that redness is caused by a specific physical milieu at the level of a
>>> particular neurotransmitter or similar stuff and that can account for the
>>> existence of the illusion?
>>> If not then your interpretation of redness is useless and not connected
>>> with reality.
>>> Giovanni
>>> On Mon, Apr 24, 2023 at 8:09 PM Brent Allsop <brent.allsop at gmail.com>
>>> wrote:
>>>> There are diverse physical and subjective properties I need to refer
>>>> to, which can't be unambiguously referred to without some new jargon.  So I
>>>> don't know how  you want me to achieve that.  For example, when you say:
>>>> "The strawberries in the illusion are made of grey elements but our brain
>>>> says they are red."  Certainly "says they are red" is made up terminology.
>>>> What do you mean by "say"  And when you say "red', that is completely
>>>> ambiguous.  Which 'red' property are you referring to, hopefully not the
>>>> light?  Is it not far more precise to simply say: "The image of the
>>>> strawberries is emitting a pattern of grey light, and the result is
>>>> knowledge of strawberries that has a form of that person's redness quality,
>>>> at least if that person is not suffering from achromatopsia, or even red
>>>> green colorblindness.
>>>> And no, everything you say still seems to me to confirm that the
>>>> perception system is just rendering knowledge which has any quality it
>>>> wants.  I have no idea what physics in our brain is responsible for my
>>>> knowledge of the strawberries, but I know, absolutely, that my knowledge of
>>>> them has a redness quality, even if it is a bit of an odd redness.  Maybe,
>>>> I should substitute the word "render" with "say", when talking to you?
>>>> On Mon, Apr 24, 2023 at 5:40 PM Giovanni Santostasi <
>>>> gsantostasi at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>> Brent,
>>>>> I explained in detail why all these optical illusions support the
>>>>> functionalist position. The color sensation is not a 1 to 1 causal chain
>>>>> otherwise the brain would not be tricked by these illusions. The
>>>>> strawberries in the illusion are made of grey elements but our brain says
>>>>> they are red. If there was a simple chemical substance responsible for the
>>>>> sensation of red when we our visual system receives light in a given
>>>>> frequency range these illusions should not be possible. They are possible
>>>>> because the perception of color is a complex and intricate phenomenon that
>>>>> requires the orchestrations of many brain regions in a self-referential
>>>>> loop. This is also explained in the video. The brain takes in a lot of
>>>>> information, including the frequency of light reflected by the objects, the
>>>>> surrounding light, the presence of other colors nearby, the shape of the
>>>>> object, the nature of the object (the fact they are strawberries), it uses
>>>>> the memory of similar light conditions (this why people that are owls see
>>>>> the dress as blue and black why larks see gold and white). All this
>>>>> indicates that the processes, the interactions, the loops, the high-level
>>>>> interpretation (similar to uttering RED) is what counts. Don't you get it?
>>>>> It really blows my mind you don't.
>>>>> *The brain is just choosing to reindeer whatever quality it wants into
>>>>> consciousness, despite the  noisy and distorted light entering the eyes*
>>>>> How does the brain does this choice and what that has to do with
>>>>> substratum-dependent redness? I agree that the brain decides what to render
>>>>> that is what these illusions try to show but it is the opposite of what you
>>>>> claim, the brain creates the noise. The signal is clear, there is a region
>>>>> of grey light coming into our visual system that happens to have the shape
>>>>> of strawberries, the light conditions are unusual so the brain doesn't know
>>>>> how to handle what it sees and it comes up with a "story", it is the
>>>>> equivalent of confabulation. If you were an animal whose life depended
>>>>> on eating these strawberries you will have wasted precious resources to get
>>>>> them given they are fake strawberries.
>>>>> It doesn't show how robust the visual system is but on the contrary,
>>>>> it shows that as amazing as the visual system is it is very fallible as
>>>>> every complex system is. It shows you that indeed redness is a color for
>>>>> what the brain thinks is a particular phenomenon but this detection is
>>>>> quite imperfect.
>>>>> Does this clarify how the illusion proves once and for all that your
>>>>> naive understanding of redness is profoundly flawed?
>>>>> If not please give a well-reasoned argument of how a
>>>>> substratum-dependent understanding of redness can cause these illusions.
>>>>> But please stop using your own invented jargon.
>>>>> Giovanni
>>>>> On Mon, Apr 24, 2023 at 4:18 PM Brent Allsop <brent.allsop at gmail.com>
>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>> Yes, I watched it, and I don't understand how you think this proves
>>>>>> functionalism.  This is exactly the kind of stuff which "qualia are
>>>>>> physical qualities" is predicting.
>>>>>> Take this optical illusion, for example:
>>>>>> [image: teaser-adelson-01.jpg]
>>>>>> Even though the light emitting from square A is the same as square B,
>>>>>> the perception system realizes one is in a shadow, so it adjusts the color
>>>>>> it renders into consciousness, to better reflect reality, despite one being
>>>>>> in the shade.  It's all the same stuff with the video.  The brain is just
>>>>>> choosing to reindeer whatever quality it wants into consciousness, despite
>>>>>> the  noisy and distorted light entering the eyes.
>>>>>> On Mon, Apr 24, 2023 at 3:20 PM Giovanni Santostasi <
>>>>>> gsantostasi at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>>>> Brent,
>>>>>>> Did you watch the video about color constancy I linked previously?
>>>>>>> They did something much more clever than what you propose and they showed
>>>>>>> that people can interpret grey as red under certain conditions. Doesn't
>>>>>>> this answer everything you need to know about this topic of redness and
>>>>>>> greenness?
>>>>>>> Giovanni
>>>>>>> On Mon, Apr 24, 2023 at 7:26 AM Brent Allsop <brent.allsop at gmail.com>
>>>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>>> Hi Giovanni,
>>>>>>>> Yes, for sure, that is all I am asking for.   The more rigorous,
>>>>>>>> clear, and non black box, the better.  THANK YOU.
>>>>>>>> [image: The_Strawberry_is_Red_064.jpg]
>>>>>>>> It's a simple inversion of the red signa wirel in a color video
>>>>>>>> stream being plugged into the green socket, and vice versa, as illustrated
>>>>>>>> in the A version, above.
>>>>>>>> Or it is an app, running on a phone that changes redness to
>>>>>>>> greenness, and vice versa, as illustrated with B, in the image.
>>>>>>>> A and B are functionally the same, (their dictionary for what they
>>>>>>>> should represent 'red' knowledge with is inverted) and they both result in
>>>>>>>> the strawberry seeming to be green, instead of red.
>>>>>>>> So, in the A example, red light, reflected off of the strawberry is
>>>>>>>> landing on the retina.  The question is, what is the seeming greenness?
>>>>>>>> On Mon, Apr 24, 2023 at 12:04 AM Giovanni Santostasi <
>>>>>>>> gsantostasi at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>>>>>> Brent,
>>>>>>>>> Ok, let's play your game. Explain in detail how your magical
>>>>>>>>> converter works. You cannot say it is a black box and you don't care how it
>>>>>>>>> works. There is a precise reason I demand a precise description because I
>>>>>>>>> actually want to make an important point on the basis of your response. If
>>>>>>>>> you have no idea of course you can say you have no idea.
>>>>>>>>> Let's start from there.
>>>>>>>>> Please go ahead.
>>>>>>>>> Giovanni
>>>>>>>>> On Sun, Apr 23, 2023 at 11:19 AM Brent Allsop via extropy-chat <
>>>>>>>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>>>>>>>>> On Sun, Apr 23, 2023 at 2:38 AM Ben Zaiboc via extropy-chat <
>>>>>>>>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>> As for Brent's strawberry fetish etc., I've given up trying to
>>>>>>>>>>> make
>>>>>>>>>>> sense of his impenetrable jargon. Plenty of people have
>>>>>>>>>>> explained to
>>>>>>>>>>> him, at painful length, "doing what you've always done will get
>>>>>>>>>>> you what
>>>>>>>>>>> you've always got", but he just won't listen.
>>>>>>>>>>> But, yes, his diagram is the same as mine, just with a couple of
>>>>>>>>>>> details
>>>>>>>>>>> pulled out, and focusing only on vision. The eyes and
>>>>>>>>>>> 'perception
>>>>>>>>>>> process' are one of my arrows from the left, the 3D strawberry
>>>>>>>>>>> model
>>>>>>>>>>> should be one of the bubbles. What 'composed of subjective
>>>>>>>>>>> qualities'
>>>>>>>>>>> actually means is anybody's guess really. I strongly suspect it
>>>>>>>>>>> doesn't
>>>>>>>>>>> mean anything at all.
>>>>>>>>>> I am simply asking the question, where IF you put a red / green
>>>>>>>>>> signal inverter between the retina and the optic nerve there will be red
>>>>>>>>>> light from the strawberry landing on the retina, yet the strawberry will
>>>>>>>>>> seem green.
>>>>>>>>>> I'm just asking, what is that grenness seeming?
>>>>>>>>>> On Sun, Apr 23, 2023 at 3:52 AM Giovanni Santostasi via
>>>>>>>>>> extropy-chat <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>> The directness and vividness of the experience are just an
>>>>>>>>>>> illusion.
>>>>>>>>>> Exactly, and what is this vivid greeness illusion of a red
>>>>>>>>>> strawberry?
>>>>>>>>>> That is all I'm asking.
>>>>>>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>>>>>> extropy-chat mailing list
>>>>>>>>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org
>>>>>>>>>> http://lists.extropy.org/mailman/listinfo.cgi/extropy-chat
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