The Birth of a Distinctly Different Venus
I was entertaining myself with ChatGPT – the “latest thing” in artificial intelligence. I gave it the task of composing a sonnet to Artificial Intelligence in the style of William Shakespeare. This is what it came up with:
Upon a cloud of ones and zeros born,
Artificial mind in silicon clad,
By human hand and intellect adorned,
In Turing’s dream and vision we are glad.
It doth parse data with untiring grace,
To master tasks that man finds hard to bear,
And in each corner of our earthly space,
Its presence known, on sea, on land, in air.
Yet in its heart, a ghostly absence glows,
No blood, no breath, no love, nor mortal fears,
Its code, a river that forever flows,
Yet knows not joy, nor pain, nor passing years.
So sing we praises of this strange, new guest,
In silicon clothes, it doth mankind’s behest.
While I had experienced ChatGPT doing some clever things, this stunned me. There are few people who would have any idea of how to write a Shakespearean sonnet, never mind to do it so competently, maneuvering between metaphors and adding poetic metaphysical observations. I’m not sure Shakespeare could have done this so well.
But, wait a minute.
What Is Intelligence?
I’ve now watched several Youtube videos making optimistic claims about the intelligence of this latest silicon Demigod. (Or alternatively expressing fear about how it may “come to rule us.”)
What are we to think?
Let’s acknowledge the obvious, and admit that in composing poems, email responses, essays, blog posts and learned academic papers, these Large Language Models are already outdoing the vast majority of human beings and will eventually surpass even the very best writers.
And, we’ve seen this before – when software started to play chess better than human beings. And later, when it beat them at Go. It has yet to outdo them a Bridge, but that may eventually happen.
ChatGPT introduced a new capability that previous software was not particularly good at. It captures knowledge about human behavior from our use of words and imitates the human wordcraft to the point of excellence – in multiple languages, no less.
But is that intelligence?
About That Potato
In In Search of the Miraculous, in discussing intelligence, Gurdjieff makes the surprising statement that:
“a cooked potato is more intelligent than a raw potato.”
He explains that the cooked potato has greater potential intelligence, because it can be consumed and digested by Man, but a raw potato cannot.
So, we should be able to consider the intelligence of these new silicon Demigods by considering what they can become food for.
They definitely have the intelligence of a cooked potato. Their substance can be, and currently is being, consumed by Man.
But it goes no higher than that.
And when you think about this, it is not surprising. These large language models are created using networked intelligence similar to the neural networks in Man and they use them to imitate Man’s verbal excretions. And like man, they are capable of creating such excretions, which can be food (impressions) for Man.
Like a cooked potato.
Very tasty, and nourishing when needed.