Dogs vs GPT
Venkat makes a few interesting critiques of humanity in his essay about personhood published in February 2023 on Ribbon Farm.
The first is that ChatGPT and Bing Sydney convince some people they’re speaking to a sentient being – and thus achieves personhood.
Therefore, he argues, text alone can create personhood.
He contrasts this with the experience of the Very Online, where they feel they can know someone through text alone. This is like when have the feeling you know someone you have interacted with for years on social media better than someone from “meatspace”, a weird term for the offline world.
This experience – of a deep relationship through text communication alone – isn’t limited to Very Online people, though. Hundreds of millions of Not-That-Online people also develop deep friendships and even relationships merely through text-based communication on forums, chat rooms, and dating sites/apps.
There’s a lot more to that kind of communication that GPT isn’t anywhere close to being able to replicate – timing, humour, and long-term memory.
Especially emotional long-term memory.
Some of this comes accross in text, some in onamatapeoiea, gifs, images, videos, emojis and other visual symbols. A few Google Scholar or PubMed searches for terms like “nonverbal communication in digital contexts,” “visual communication in text-based communication,” lead you to ample academic research indicating that there’s a lot more to text communication than what ChatGPT does.
A better-fleshed-out point by Venkat is that unlike Decartes and all humans, GPT lacks doubt. This reveals its lack of humanhood.
dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum
But guess what person-ish being has plenty of doubt – a dog. And plenty of other human traits: long-term emotional connection, timing, humour, moods, playfulness – and plenty of doubt. When one foreleg is raised, you see it clearly.
Yet not a word. Not a single word of text from dogs.
So much for the theory that personhood can come via text alone.