Aug 3, 2023

What Does ChatGPT Really Know? with Dr. Murray Shanahan at DeepMind (podcast)

To what extent does our tendency to anthropomorphize impact our perception of large language models and generative AI?

By Templeton Staff

Dr. Murray Shanahan is a professor of Cognitive Robotics at Imperial College London in the Department of Computing, and Senior Research Scientist at Google DeepMind. His research centers around artificial intelligence, robotics, and cognitive science. 

Many Minds podcast host, cognitive scientist, and writer Kensy Cooperrider introduces the episode:

"By now you’ve probably heard about the chatbot called ChatGPT. There’s no question it’s something of a marvel. It distills complex information into clear prose; it offers instructions and suggestions; it reasons its way through problems. With the right prompting, it can even mimic famous writers. And it does all this with an air of cool competence, of intelligence. But, if you’re like me, you’ve probably also been wondering: What’s really going on here? What are ChatGPT — and other large language models like it — actually doing? How much of their apparent competence is just smoke and mirrors? In what sense, if any, do they have human-like capacities?

My guest today is the author of numerous articles and several books at the lively intersections of artificial intelligence, neuroscience, and philosophy. Very recently, Dr. Shanahan put out a paper titled ‘Talking about Large Language Models’, and it’s the focus of our conversation today. In the paper, he argues that — tempting as may be — it’s not appropriate to talk about large language models in anthropomorphic terms. Not yet, anyway.

  • We chat about the rapid rise of large language models and the basics of how they work.
  • We discuss how a model that — at its base — simply does “next-word prediction” can be engineered into a savvy chatbot like ChatGPT.
  • We talk about why ChatGPT lacks genuine “knowledge” and “understanding” — at least as we currently use those terms.
  • And we discuss what it might take for these models to eventually possess richer, more human-like capacities.
  • Along the way, we touch on: emergence, prompt engineering, embodiment and grounding, image generation models, Wittgenstein, the intentional stance, soft robots, and “exotic mind-like entities."

Play the full episode with the above player.

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Templeton World Charity Foundation's Diverse Intelligences is a multiyear, global effort to understand a world alive with brilliance in many forms. Its mission is to promote open-minded, forward-looking inquiry in animal, human, and machine intelligences. We collaborate with leading experts and emerging scholars from around the globe, developing high-caliber projects that advance our comprehension of the constellation of intelligences.

Many Minds is a project of the Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute (DISI), made possible through a grant from TWCF to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The Many Minds podcast is hosted and produced by Kensy Cooperrider, with help from assistant producer Cecilia Padilla. Creative support is provided by DISI Directors Erica Cartmill and Jacob Foster. Artwork featured as the podcast badge is by Ben Oldroyd.