Monthly Archives: December 2011

Week 3 – Does Language Imply Conscious Thought?

Before I begin working on my paper, I would like to discuss my initial feelings on language implying consciousness. This will be brief compared to my paper, nor will it be as heavy in content or arguments compared to the paper. This also isn’t going to directly parallel my paper.

 

What am I meaning right now when I say conscious thought? The short answer is free will. Humans can choose our actions freely. A machine’s actions are predetermined based on how it is programmed. Even in a neural network with the ability to learn and evolve its thought processes, somewhere within it’s silicon “brain” it has a path that leads to its decision. It doesn’t have the ability to choose for itself.

Now let’s assume we have an AI system “smart” enough to create it’s own sentences that are both grammatically correct and hold understandable semantic meaning to humans or even other AI systems. Does this prove the machine has intelligence? Simply the correct usage of language isn’t enough proof. Even the most primitive systems can be programmed to look for keywords, match it with “knowledge” in its memory, and stick the knowledge into a grammatically ordered sentence. If language usage can prove the existence of consciousness, it would depend on the content of the language outputted. That is what I would like to examine in my paper. I want to analyze what semantics could hold pure mechanical meaning to the system and what semantics would not be able to be explained away as a technological charade.

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Neural Nets

(I apologize for posting this later than I intended, I’ve been inconvenienced by computer problems.)

(Oh, and forgive me if I type too casually, by the way; from what I understand, this is a free write, but I hope techniques such as ellipses and sentence fragments are excusable, I feel much more free when I can write how I’d say it.)

 

Neural networks… how could one not find them fascinating? I suppose they could go over some people’s head. Heck, I don’t even understand the technical intricacies of the systems themselves. Unfortunately, I am in no way a computer engineer, being only literate in software programming, and not even an expert at that. Still, think of the applications. Getting a neural network created that at least fairly accurately represents the human brain, even just the language center, could hold tremendous value in understanding the language acquisition process. Can we yet say with certainty what universal grammar truly entails? Couldn’t this knowledge not only be of scientific interest, but human interest? A full understanding of language development by observing a neural network can allow linguists to learn exactly how to best aid a child in first language acquisition, or even an adult in second or third language acquisition. Experiments could be carried out on these networks that would be impossible, as they would be unethical to carry out on a child.

Simply to be a part in creating a neural network that correctly mirrors the human mind would be incredible. Perhaps studying how language is used and acquired interests me more than the average person, however this could be the missing piece of creating “true” AI. Granted, the book Galatea 2.2 implies this to be true, but it is, in a way, science fiction. We might not be anywhere near having this “true AI”, and I can’t say I understand the complexities of the brain enough to say what it would take to create real intelligence. Simply to have a computer communicate with a person on the same level as people communicate among themselves would be no small feat. The implications of such a breakthrough are probably impossible to really grasp. Would it be a godsend or a mistake? The simple curiosity of science might be enough to, in time, take the chance, even if it is a huge mistake. And I won’t lie, my curiosity is quite high here. I’m not very well researched in neural networks, though I definitely would like to learn more about them. It’s amazing how linguistics can be so pervasive, from the distant past to the far future.

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Week 1: Ambiguity in Cyber-Language

I often communicate through the internet or texting, though not nearly at a level I used to. Unfortunately, these mediums cause a level of ambiguity with the lack of body language, facial language, and tone. Though this was confirmed in the second chapter of David Crystal’s Internet Linguistics, I already had realized this and have had to find ways to cope with the problem. The most obvious technique is emoticons, which I am quite liberal with. I probably use more emoticons than actual facial expressions, as they have to also make up for the loss of body language and tone. There are the obvious emoticons, such as a smile 🙂 and a frown 😦 . If I’m really sad, the frown is replaced with a crying face 😥 , or if I’m annoyed, I might use DX. If I’m really happy, a big smile is used 😀 . If I want to show that I’m joking, I use a silly face like :-p , or if I’m having fun, I might use XD .  If I’m shocked I’ll used O.O or if I’m raising an eyebrow I’ll use o.O . A lot of joy is ^_^ and if I’m flattered ^^; . If I want to show sympathy or sadness with less effect, I use this face :-\ , which I can interpret but find it hard to describe. Some of the faces become even harder to describe, or even just to say what emotion they represent, because I use them unconsciously, examples of such being >.< , x.x , and ><; . Those  are but a handful, which some getting as complex as (//.^) .

Clearly I have a variety of of emoticons to choose from, but the big problem is that not everyone  interprets them the same way, nor do they have a similar set of emoticons. There are other ways go signify emotions, such as “lol” or “haha” not necessarily to indicate laughing, simply to diffuse a situation and keep it lighthearted, almost like a nervous laugh, even when the person is not laughing. I also might write “imho”, or “in my humble opinion”, indicating that I do not mean to start a fight. Of course, in the end, there are quite a few factors that interpretation depends on, and so misunderstandings can always become a problem. Perhaps in the future, a more universalized mode of communicating will exist in the cyberspace to help avoid these communication problems. Whether it will be technology or simply human adaptation to the medium remains unknown. I hope some solution does come, though, because these problems are more than just inconvient, they can completely affect human relationships.

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