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Humanist Archives: Aug. 5, 2020, 9 a.m. Humanist 34.214 - on GPT-3

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 34, No. 214.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
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        Date: 2020-08-04 07:35:52+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty 
        Subject: questions about questions

In one of my favourite novels, Zia Haider Rahman's In the Light 
of What We Know, the narrator, questioning his own thoughts, muses 
that "the only answers each of us hears are to the questions we are 
capable of asking.” In the present context, this suggests to me that 
Brigitte Rath's "What kinds of questions does GPT-3 raise for you?" 
(Humanist 34.203) is perhaps more worth pursuing in an open 
discussion than we may have realised.

So, to respond to her: mine are about the perspectives or inclinations 
with which we begin forming the questions we ask. 

The first is the orientation to mimesis, or rather, the limitation of
perspective to only that. If something not of our biological kind can
successfully do what we do, so that it passes the 'test' that Turing
never named a test, rather a 'game', then it raises a question, or a
bundle of them. This is something the Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori
understood (he of the "uncanny valley" fame). Imitation is only the 
first step; that which an imitation of ourselves fails to do is, as 
Jerome McGann once wrote, "the hem of a quantum garment", a.k.a. 
a game-changer.

The second is the kind of response that Ananda Coomaraswamy once 
identified with a particular Sanskrit term he translated as 
"nothing-more-ism". (I'd be very grateful to know what this Sanskrit 
term is and where Coomaraswamy discussed it, or better, if there's 
other commentary on it.) In other words, the response that sums to 
"this is nothing more than X", where X is a matter pointless to pursue. 
Ok, 'intelligence', like 'consciousness', is a term that seems impossible 
to get a handle on. But that does not mean that the effort to do so is 
worthless. Anything but: consider, for example, these two very different 
responses to those two elusive words:

1. On 'intelligence': G.E.R. Lloyd, Intelligence and intelligibility
(OUP, 2020);
2. On consciousness: Roger Penrose, "Physics and the mind", in Penrose,
Shimony, Cartwright and Hawking, The Large, the Small and the Human Mind
(CUP 1997); Lex Fridman's recent interview with Penrose, "Consciousness
is not a computation", https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXgqik6HXc0



Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/),
Professor emeritus, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
London; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
(www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20) and Humanist (www.dhhumanist.org)

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