On Grounded Language Learning and Simulation

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On Grounded Language Learning and Simulation

Published Tue, Dec 22, 2020

Language seems to be the pinnacle of intelligence. While many animals can communicate, none can do it at the richness or level of complexity as humans. So its not surprising that we have studied language in so much detail trying to understand how language works and what makes human unique in their use of language. There has been a lot of research trying to build computers that can understand and process language in ways similar to a human. Some of the main fields are Natural Language Processing (NLP), computational neuroscience, computational linguistics, artificial intelligence and machine learning. The recent fruits of these labor have resulted in many software architectures such as word2vec, fasttext, CBOW, transformers etc.

These software architectures are so powerful and have become state of the art for text classification, voice recognition, and text generation. And with these new possibilities, many people seem to believe that true computer intelligence is eminent. GPT3 just came out in June 2020 and because it can generate text that looks like it was written by a human, many people think that computers can actually understand and communicate with us now. What has always concerned me with these computer models is that they have zero understanding of the actual world and are just glorified puppets, or as they are called in philosphy, philosphical zombies. And so what ends up happening is that we continue to build models of intelligence on a broken foundation. Yes, these new models are so powerful now that they can hear the words we are saying and can accurately transcribe human speech at 95% accuracy, generate human looking articles, but these computer algorithms still have no idea of what any of it means.

All the initial concepts we learn stem from interacting with our environment, they have physical meaning. A baby's first concepts come from interacting with the world via…
Jason Toy
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