Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 34, No. 216. Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London Hosted by King's Digital Lab www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: 2020-08-06 15:40:03+00:00 From: Brigitte Rath
Subject: AW: [Humanist] 34.214: on GPT-3 Many thanks, Tim, Jim, Bill, Mark and Willard, for all your stimulating thoughts. Jim Rovira points out that textual meaning is produced in the act of reading, in the interplay of text with something else. I'd like to take this observation as a starting point to think a bit more about GPT-3's production of text as a specific test case for semiotics. We know that GPT-3's whole universe is encoded text. The only input it ever got was encoded text, and it is its only output. Its model consists of weighted relations between markers (let's call them "words*") which are all of the same kind. This seems noteworthy to me: as Bill Benzon mentions, GPT-3 manipulates words* without semantics or reference. Within GPT-3, words* only ever connect to other words*, they cannot connect to concepts or objects. GPT-3's model of language is entirely relational and entirely homogeneous. Ferdinand de Saussure's famous structuralist model of language is also relational, but it is heterogeneous: all signifiers -- "sound images" for Saussure -- are of the same kind, and within the homogeneous set of signifiers -- all of them "sound images" --, each signifier is defined precisely by being different from all others. The same holds for all signifieds, concepts for Saussure. A sign is formed when a signifier is connected to a signified -- a sound image to a concept -- and thus when *categorically different* units, each defined differentially within its own homogeneous system, are brought together. Signification arises out of a *heterogeneous* system. For me that leads to two different thoughts: (1) What happens when a large machine learning algorithm is fed two or more _different_ sets of inputs with the model tasked to build not one (as GPT-3), but two or more homogeneous relational systems which are categorically different from each other, and to connect them together, creating relationships between heterogeneous units and thus a structure of signification? (2) Willard McCarty asks about the "perspectives or inclinations with which we begin forming the questions we ask," and names mimesis and "nothing-more-ism." I am, first and foremost, a reader, and I'd describe my own inclination as looking for a different stream of input to connect with the ones I already process, with the expectation that these additional heterogeneous connections create new signs which may allow for new meanings. GPT-3 may provide one for me. I am still fascinated by GPT-3, and thus both curious about and very grateful for others' thoughts. Brigitte ________________________________________ Von: Humanist [email@example.com] Gesendet: Mittwoch, 05. August 2020 10:00 An: firstname.lastname@example.org Betreff: [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 www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: email@example.com 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 Comments? Yours, WM -- 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) _______________________________________________ Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted List posts to: firstname.lastname@example.org List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/ Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php
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