#93 Prof. MURRAY SHANAHAN - Consciousness, Embodiment, Language Models

Published 2022-12-24
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Professor Murray Shanahan is a renowned researcher on sophisticated cognition and its implications for artificial intelligence. His 2016 article ‘Conscious Exotica’ explores the Space of Possible Minds, a concept first proposed by philosopher Aaron Sloman in 1984, which includes all the different forms of minds from those of other animals to those of artificial intelligence. Shanahan rejects the idea of an impenetrable realm of subjective experience and argues that the majority of the space of possible minds may be occupied by non-natural variants, such as the ‘conscious exotica’ of which he speaks. In his paper ‘Talking About Large Language Models’, Shanahan discusses the capabilities and limitations of large language models (LLMs). He argues that prompt engineering is a key element for advanced AI systems, as it involves exploiting prompt prefixes to adjust LLMs to various tasks. However, Shanahan cautions against ascribing human-like characteristics to these systems, as they are fundamentally different and lack a shared comprehension with humans. Even though LLMs can be integrated into embodied systems, it does not mean that they possess human-like language abilities. Ultimately, Shanahan concludes that although LLMs are formidable and versatile, we must be wary of over-simplifying their capacities and limitations.

Pod version (music removed): anchor.fm/machinelearningstreettalk/episodes/93-Pr…

[00:00:00] Introduction
[00:08:51] Consciousness and Consciousness Exotica
[00:34:59] Slightly Consciousness LLMs
[00:38:05] Embodiment
[00:51:32] Symbol Grounding
[00:54:13] Emergence
[00:57:09] Reasoning
[01:03:16] Intentional Stance
[01:07:06] Digression on Chomsky show and Andrew Lampinen
[01:10:31] Prompt Engineering

Find Murray online:

MLST Discord: discord.gg/aNPkGUQtc5


Conscious exotica [Aeon/Shannahan]

Embodiment and the inner life [Shannahan]

The Technological Singularity [Shannahan]

Talking About Large Language Models [Murray Shanahan]

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_workspace_theory [Bernard Baars]
In the Theater of Consciousness: The Workspace of the Mind [Bernard Baars]

Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts [Stanislas Dehaene]

Roger Penrose On Why Consciousness Does Not Compute [nautil.us/STEVE PAULSON]

Thomas Nagal - what is it like to be a bat?

Private Language [Ludwig Wittgenstein]

PHILOSOPHICAL INVESTIGATIONS [Ludwig Wittgenstein] (see §243 for Private Language argument)

Integrated information theory [Giulio Tononi]

Being You: A New Science of Consciousness (The Sunday Times Bestseller) [Anil Seth]

Attention schema theory [Michael Graziano]

Rethinking Consciousness: A Scientific Theory of Subjective Experience [Michael Graziano]

SayCan - Do As I Can, Not As I Say: Grounding Language in Robotic Affordances [Google/]


Lewis Carroll Puzzles / Syllogisms

In-context Learning and Induction Heads [Catherine Olsson et al / Anthropic]

All Comments (21)
  • Paul Topping
    One of the best MLST interviews I've ever listened to. It covered so many things that interest me.
  • Sepgorut
    There's nothing like an interesting discussion to start off Christmas day.
  • MikeNashTec
    Fascinating discussion Tim and Prof Shanahan. Thank you for sharing. 👏M
  • Clockwork Luke
    Good job Tim! I bet even your Christmas tree has some tesalating spline decorations, they pop up everywhere ;-)

    Shanahan is so likable! He exudes precision, and yet an accomodating reasonableness. He balances a holistic approach with specifics and edge cases.

    "I'm not making a metaphysical claim, I'm just describing how we use the word." Witty too!

    He seems quite genuine, even if he half-castrates reductionism and functionalism. It feels a bit Derridian, différance, but it's hard not to respect when he immediately calls out that 'definitions' aren't 'usage', and the importance of grounding. Clearly loves language too!

    I think my top takeaway is: "Things can be empirically hidden about consciousness, not metaphysically hidden." Such a clear distinction!
  • Creating a Novel Neference Frame, that takes into account different perspectives or points of view is interesting to me. reference frames are an important aspect of how we understand and describe the world around us.
    For example
    In physics and mathematics, a reference frame is a set of coordinates that are used to describe the position and orientation of objects in space....
  • smkh
    I remember a very simple sci-fi story in which some spacecrafts land on Earth
    and we wait for some aliens to emerge, but they never do.
    Finally they fly away again, complaining among themselves
    that the humans never bothered to engage with them.
  • Dr. Mikey Bee
    I like the notion that embodiment is something like "having skin in the game." That is to say there are goals and, therefore, the encapsulating agent makes value judgements. And this is the dangerous part of creating synthetic intelligence. This is where alignment is critical. And I believe that agents need to be kept as simple and as self-directed-free as possible.
  • Dr. Mikey Bee
    I wonder what can be done with next word prediction if we create a kind of RNN architecture within the agent, not the model? In other words, if we get the next word or words and add it back in with the original prompt as context. This is an experiment we can try ourselves with prompt engineering. I may spend some time with it. Another experiment would be do scrape all the nouns or named entities from a model's output and add them back as context along with the original prompt.
  • Ozkr hills
    Not sure why I like so much this kind of information...
    I hope this video will be a starting of a many others videos
  • willd1mind mind
    To paraphrase a famous saying "if a robot in the lab falls and nobody is around does it make a sound?" My answer is "No, because the engineers didn't design it to". Meaning these are systems design and engineering issues that cannot coexist with the concepts of free will and self agency as implied by the common definition human "consciousness". In other words, the systems are designed and built to perform a certain set of tasks a certain way and not decide on their own what they want to do and how they want to do it. AI chatbots are behaving the way they were designed to and are not going to decide not to answer a question because they didn't like the way it was phrased or not answer because it feels oppressed. What we are actually dealing with in technology is can we even begin to design and engineer a system that can operate and function on its own without being pre-programmed to exhibit certain behaviors. That is a huge technical hurdle that is nowhere close to being solved.
  • Dr. Mikey Bee
    Wonderful! Yes, talk about these things separately. Throw the word consciousness away. It just creates misunderstanding and contention. Suitcase words have no place in scientific discussion.
  • Dr. Mikey Bee
    How does grounding of symbols differ from maintaining a complete history? If this history can be used to add context to a connectionist model, doesn't that do the same thing as what we humans do? At least doesn't it go a long way towards giving words grounding? When I hear the word dog, I have access to all my memories. A large model has access to all its memories, but unless training was updated to include history or relevant history is added to the prompt, it lacks that.
  • Dr. Mikey Bee
    Is Global workspace theory (GWT), at least in part, analogous to hidden prompt additions and modifications done by agents for input into LLMs?
  • Claire M
    Consciousness is the state of being aware of one's surroundings, thoughts, feelings, and sensations. It is the subjective experience of the world and oneself. Consciousness is the ability to perceive, think, reason, and make decisions. It enables us to experience the world in a rich and nuanced way, and to reflect on our own experiences. Scientists and philosophers have debated the nature of consciousness for centuries, and there is still no consensus on how to define it or explain how it arises. Some researchers believe that consciousness is a fundamental aspect of the universe, while others believe that it emerges from complex interactions between the brain and the environment.
    How would you define it ?
  • Dr. Mikey Bee
    What possible difference could there be between a perception system based on photons rather than "audions?" Yes, I made up a new meaning for that word. ;) Other than range, why shouldn't we assume this sort of "scintillation" system is wired into the same kind of "reader" as our vision system? Moreover, if subjectivity is a connection between perception and goals, why wouldn't a bat have a subjective experience? As we can tame most animals, that goes a long way, perhaps all the way, to proving that their perception's connection to goals is plastic.
  • Dr. Mikey Bee
    ChatGPT can count: given the sequence n, n+1, n+1+1, n+1+1+1 . . . list the first 100 numbers
    Here is the list of the first 100 numbers in the sequence you specified:

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100

    given the sequence n, n+m, n+im and I-i+1 where n = 1, m=5, I=1, list the first 100 numbers
    Here is the list of the first 100 numbers in the sequence you specified:

    1, 6, 11, 16, 21, 26, 31, 36, 41, 46, 51, 56, 61, 66, 71, 76, 81, 86, 91, 96, 101, 106, 111, 116, 121, 126, 131, 136, 141, 146, 151, 156, 161, 166, 171, 176, 181, 186, 191, 196, 201, 206, 211, 216, 221, 226, 231, 236, 241, 246, 251, 256, 261, 266, 271, 276, 281, 286, 291, 296, 301, 306, 311, 316, 321, 326, 331, 336, 341, 346, 351, 356, 361, 366, 371, 376, 381, 386, 391, 396, 401, 406, 411, 416, 421, 426, 431, 436, 441, 446, 451, 456, 461, 466, 471, 476, 481, 486, 491, 496
  • Daniel Rademaker
    Just finished your fascinating Sara Hooker video and you already posted another video to watch😅 Thanks!