GPT And The Quest For The ‘Ghost In The Machine’

GPT And The Quest For The ‘Ghost In The Machine’

John Nosta 11/06/2023
GPT And The Quest For The ‘Ghost In The Machine’

Geoffrey Hinton, a prominent figure in the field of artificial intelligence, shared intriguing insights into the world of large language models like GPT-4.

Hinton’s observations on ‘GPT hallucinations’ highlight the similarities between these AI systems and human cognition, emphasizing the imperfections in memory and conversation that both exhibits. This perspective challenges us to view these inaccuracies not as errors but as reflections of the human cognitive process, suggesting a techno-biological mechanism at play. Hinton also points out the impressive learning algorithm of GPT-4, which despite having fewer connections than the human brain, possesses significantly more knowledge. As we explore the boundaries of AI, the question of whether a ‘ghost in the machine’ exists arises, inviting us to consider the potential for consciousness within AI systems. However, it is important to note that current AI lacks true consciousness and falls short of capturing the complexities of human cognition. These insights contribute to our understanding of cognition, knowledge, and intelligence, pushing us to reevaluate and redefine these concepts in the face of technological advancements.

Recently, Geoffrey Hinton, a revered figure in the realm of artificial intelligence, shared some thought-provoking insights into the fascinating world of large language models such as GPT-4. His commentary got me thinking (or should I say confabulating) about the intriguing parallels between these AI systems and human cognition, challenging and enriching our understanding of memory, learning, and knowledge.

A Biological-Computational Overlap

Hinton’s observations on ‘GPT hallucinations’ provide a fresh perspective on the AI’s occasional generation of half-truths or inaccuracies. In fact, he considers them less a bug and more a feature! In his words, “People always confabulate. Half-truths and misremembered details are hallmarks of human conversation — confabulation is a signature of human memory. These models are doing something just like people.”

This unconventional lens invites us to view these inaccuracies not as system errors but as reflections of the inherent imperfections in human memory and conversation. It points towards a techno-biological mechanism, a type of information processing that mimics human cognitive patterns.

Understanding GPT’s ‘Techno-Cognitive’ Advantage

In discussing the depth of GPT’s knowledge, Hinton emphasizes, “Our brains have 100 trillion connections. Large language models have up to half a trillion, a trillion at most. Yet GPT-4 knows hundreds of times more than any one person does. So maybe it’s actually got a much better learning algorithm than us.”

This observation underscores the effectiveness of the model’s learning algorithm, pushing us to reevaluate our understanding of human learning and knowledge acquisition processes. The techno-cognitive mechanism of GPT-4, despite having far fewer connections than the human brain, can absorb a vast amount of information from diverse fields in a relatively short time.

The ‘Ghost in the Machine’: Interpreting Consciousness in AI?

As we delve deeper into the realm of AI and its human-like cognitive capabilities, we come face-to-face with a compelling question: are we inching closer to finding the ‘ghost in the machine’? This term, coined by philosopher Gilbert Ryle as a critique of René Descartes’ mind-body dualism, has come to signify the consciousness or mind existing within a physical entity.

In the context of artificial intelligence, the idea of a ‘ghost in the machine’ invites us to question whether a form of consciousness could exist within AI systems such as GPT-4. As of now, despite the remarkable advancements in AI, these systems do not possess consciousness as we understand it in humans. Despite the impressive ability to mimic human-like conversational patterns and knowledge, AI systems like GPT-4 operate based on intricate algorithms and vast datasets, not conscious understanding.

Hinton’s insights compel us to reexamine our understanding of AI’s knowledge processing mechanism, drawing fascinating parallels with human cognition. Meanwhile, the concept of the ‘ghost in the machine’ raises thought-provoking questions about the potential for consciousness in AI. However, we must remember that these insights do not suggest an equivalence between AI and human cognition. The complexities of human memory, learning, and knowledge remain deeply intertwined with emotions, consciousness, and subjective experiences — areas currently beyond the reach of AI.

As we continue to push the boundaries of AI capabilities, we must reflect on these developments critically but with imagination. This ongoing dialogue enriches our understanding of cognition, knowledge, and intelligence, pushing us to reevaluate and redefine these concepts in the light of technological advancements.

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John Nosta

Digital Health Expert

John is the #1 global influencer in digital health and generally regarded as one of the top global strategic and creative thinkers in this important and expanding area. He is also one the most popular speakers around the globe presenting his vibrant and insightful perspective on the future of health innovation. His focus is on guiding companies, NGOs, and governments through the dynamics of exponential change in the health / tech marketplaces. He is also a member of the Google Health Advisory Board, pens HEALTH CRITICAL for Forbes--a top global blog on health & technology and THE DIGITAL SELF for Psychology Today—a leading blog focused on the digital transformation of humanity. He is also on the faculty of Exponential Medicine. John has an established reputation as a vocal advocate for strategic thinking and creativity. He has built his career on the “science of advertising,” a process where strategy and creativity work together for superior marketing. He has also been recognized for his ability to translate difficult medical and scientific concepts into material that can be more easily communicated to consumers, clinicians and scientists. Additionally, John has distinguished himself as a scientific thinker. Earlier in his career, John was a research associate at Harvard Medical School and has co-authored several papers with global thought-leaders in the field of cardiovascular physiology with a focus on acute myocardial infarction, ventricular arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.

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