Monday, February 13, 2023

The fluid mind of ChatGPT

Some time ago I posted a set of notes entitled, From Associative Nets to the Fluid Mind (2013). Here’s the abstract:

We can think of the mind as a network that’s fluid on several scales of viscosity. Some things change very slowly, on a scale of months to years. Other things change rapidly, in milliseconds or seconds. And other processes are in between. The microscale dynamic properties of the mind at any time are context dependent. Under some conditions it will function as a highly structured cognitive network; the details of the network will of course depend on the exact conditions, both internal (including chemical) and external (what’s the “load” on the mind?). Under other conditions the mind will function more like a loose associative net. These notes explore these notions in a very informal way.

This implies that "classical" cognitive networks cannot exhibit these behaviors because they are, by design and construction, "locked in" to rigidly defined behaviors. And THAT's one reason I wanted to probe ChatGPT on these kinds of tasks. To see what it can do that GOFAI semantic nets cannot.

The final section is entitled, “A Half-dozen Associative Clusters,” which I explained thus:

These associations are, of course, mine. I make no general assertions about these clusters. They are here as examples of the sorts of things that can come up through relatively quick associations.

I decided to see how ChatGPT would respond to some of those clusters:

Shakespeare, the Globe theater, Coleridge, “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner,” James Joyce, Marcel Proust, deconstruction, interpretation, romantic love, Romance of the Rose, La Vita Nuova, Othello, the unconscious, Bleak House

These are all important works, authors, and concepts in the fields of literature and literary theory.

Shakespeare was an English playwright and poet widely regarded as one of the greatest writers in the English language. His works include classics such as "Othello," "Romeo and Juliet," and "Hamlet." The Globe theater, located in London, was one of the most famous playhouses of Shakespeare's time and was the venue for many of his plays.

Coleridge was an English poet, literary critic, and philosopher who was one of the leading figures of the Romantic movement. "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is one of his most famous poems.

James Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet who was a key figure in the Modernist movement. He is best known for his novel "Ulysses." Marcel Proust was a French novelist and critic whose most famous work is "In Search of Lost Time."

Deconstruction is a philosophical and literary theory that critiques the stability of meaning in texts. Interpretation is the process of creating meaning from a text, which can involve multiple perspectives and interpretations.

Romantic love refers to the idealized and intense form of love that is often celebrated in romantic literature. The "Romance of the Rose" is a medieval poem that explores the themes of courtly love and desire. "La Vita Nuova" is a collection of poems by Dante Alighieri that tell the story of his love for a woman named Beatrice.

The unconscious refers to the part of the mind that contains thoughts, memories, and impulses that are not currently in conscious awareness. "Bleak House" is a novel by Charles Dickens that critiques the legal system and society in 19th-century England.

atoms, periodic table, bonds, compounds, elements, molecules, reaction, oxidation, acids and bases, reagents, alchemy, changing liquids from one color to another, distilling, condenser, precipitate

These are all concepts in the field of chemistry.

Atoms are the basic building blocks of matter, and they are composed of a nucleus, which contains protons and neutrons, surrounded by electrons. The periodic table is a chart that arranges all of the known elements into a table based on their atomic number, electron configuration, and chemical properties.

Bonds are the forces that hold atoms together in a molecule. Compounds are substances made up of two or more different elements that are chemically bonded together.

Elements are the simplest form of matter and cannot be broken down into simpler substances by chemical means. Molecules are the smallest particle of a substance that retains its chemical properties.

A reaction is a process in which one or more substances are transformed into new substances. Oxidation is a chemical reaction in which a substance loses electrons.

Acids and bases are two types of compounds that play an important role in many chemical reactions. Reagents are substances that are used to cause a chemical reaction.

Alchemy was a medieval philosophy and proto-science that aimed to transform base metals into gold and to discover a universal panacea. Changing liquids from one color to another is a common demonstration of chemical reactions in chemistry classrooms.

Distilling is a process used to purify liquids by heating them to vaporize, collecting the vapor, and condensing it back into a pure liquid. A condenser is a device used in distillation to condense the vapor back into a liquid.

Precipitate refers to a solid that forms from a solution and separates from it, either spontaneously or through the addition of a reagent.

I gave it a cluster on jazz as well, but we can skip it. ChatGPT responded to it the way it did to the literary and chemistry clusters, but giving quick definitions of the various terms.

I decided to “go meta” and see how ChatGPT would respond:

What does it mean to free associate?

Free association is a technique used in psychology and psychotherapy where a person is encouraged to say whatever comes to their mind without censorship or filtering. The idea is that by allowing thoughts and feelings to come to the surface without judgment or control, unconscious or repressed material can be revealed, leading to greater self-awareness and insight.

In free association, a person is typically prompted to start with a word or image, and then to respond with whatever comes to mind, no matter how seemingly random or unrelated it may be. This can result in a stream of consciousness-style narrative that sheds light on the individual's unconscious thoughts, feelings, and desires.

Free association can be a valuable tool for exploring the unconscious mind, resolving emotional conflicts, and gaining insight into one's thoughts and behaviors. It is used in various forms of psychotherapy, including psychoanalysis, and is considered a cornerstone of psychoanalytic theory and practice.

Free associate on “psychedelic popcicle”

Sure! Here are some free associations for "psychedelic popcicle":

  • Colorful, trippy, swirls, summer, brain freeze
  • 1960s, flower power, Woodstock, peace sign, hippie culture
  • Sweet, treat, lick, melt, thirst quencher
  • Childhood, innocence, playtime, fun, carefree

Again, these are just examples of free associations, and the actual associations made by an individual may differ based on their experiences and perspectives.

Frankly, those bullets violate the spirit of free association, but I'm going to blame them on the trainers and taskmasters at Open AI rather than on the underlying LLM. The same goes for that annoying final paragraph.

Note that “again.” I’d previously asked it for some free-associations which I’m not uploaded because...well...I can’t upload everything and they don’t add anything to the story.

I then reloaded the page to give me a new chat and I gave it the psychedelic popsicle associations in a list:

Colorful, trippy, swirls, summer, brain freeze, 1960s, flower power, Woodstock, peace sign, hippie culture, Sweet, treat, lick, melt, thirst quencher, Childhood, innocence, playtime, fun, carefree

This description is reminiscent of the classic summer treat, the popsicle! Popsicles are sweet, colorful, and come in a variety of flavors, making them a popular choice for quenching thirst and satisfying a sweet tooth. The 1960s was a time of the flower power and hippie culture movement, with symbols like the peace sign being associated with this era. This aligns with the carefree, fun, and playful nature of eating popsicles, evoking a sense of childhood innocence. The "brain freeze" effect from eating them too quickly is also a common experience, adding to their appeal as a playful treat.

I had no particular expectations on what it would do.

It is interesting that it identified the list with “popsicle” though the word isn’t in the list. Note as well that it didn’t simply take the words in order and add connecting tissue; thus, e.g. while “brain freeze” comes at the beginning of the list, it appears near the end of the paragraph. ChatGPT took the words and composed a mini-essay around them.

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