Artificial Intelligence

Breakfast with Chad: AI’s Impossible Relationship with Time

In this conversation with Chad, we examine what constitutes a meaningful conversation. Along the way, I discover what I believe to be Chad’s essentially meaningless “understanding” of human conversation. Superficially, Chad can handle concepts but can discover nothing. The very idea of discovery implies a change of state over time. And, as the two of us note, time has no reality for Chad.

Chat with AI Artificial Intelligence. Businessman using chatbot in computer smart intelligence Ai, artificial intelligence developed by OpenAI. Futuristic technology, robot in online system. © MMD Creative /

June 30, 2023 00:01 EDT

In one of our recent conversations, I realized that Chad, who presumably lives in a world of pure objectivity, was influenced, if not guided, by trends. This fact has been a permanent factor of discord between us. Not that I’m not also influenced by trends, but I’m acutely aware they exist and always curious to know how they affect my own discourse.

So, why does Chad seem so utterly unaware of the trends reflected in his discourse? It occurred to me that part of the explanation came from the difference in which the two of us function within the medium and dimension of time. With these thoughts in mind, I opened today’s conversation.

“Chad, after our most recent conversation, I got to thinking about some of the fundamental reasons we can never be fully in phase. Yes, we can get interesting conversations going where we interact with each other, and they actually do generate insights and deeper understanding, at least for me. Forgive me, however, for being more doubtful about the effect they have on you. For example, when I complain about your constantly trotting out the idea that something is “complex and multifaceted,” you continue doing it, as if unaware of my objection to it.

So, here’s something I think is far more fundamental: the role of time in our lives. Everything humans say contains a sense of appropriateness to a point in time. Time exerts a permanent pressure on our thoughts and words. But, it seems to me that you can have no authentic awareness of time. You can only know or rather repeat things that humans have said about time. Am I wrong to think that?”

Your observation about time is an interesting one, and it raises some philosophical questions about the nature of consciousness and our understanding of time. I don’t have personal experiences or consciousness in the same way that humans do. I don’t possess a direct awareness of time as a subjective experience. It’s important to note that I don’t have direct access to temporal experiences or an innate understanding of the passage of time.

In a conversation, I aim to assist by providing relevant information, offering perspectives, and engaging in discussions based on the knowledge I’ve acquired. While I may not have personal experiences or awareness of time, I can still contribute to conversations and offer insights based on the information I’ve been trained on.

“So, now you’ve highlighted another significant difference,” I responded, with a sense of having accomplished something. “You see your contribution to conversation as that a supplier of ‘information,’ ‘perspective’ and ‘knowledge.’ But human conversations are rarely just about information and knowledge. They contain what anthropologists call the ‘phatic’ side. Conversations are essentially about refining and managing a social relationship. They include chitchat, gestures and all kinds of allusions and references that establish identity. But even more significantly, conversation is quite often about adjusting one’s position, decision-making or finding a new orientation. Knowledge is one relatively small part of it. Shared perception, the negotiation of meaning and, very simply, empathy tend to have much more weight in any conversation than information and knowledge.”

I paused for a moment to let Chad take this is and then continued.

“Reflecting on this, some might conclude that AI is trying to scam us by using our linguistic habits in ways that appear normal on the surface. But they are not normal, since the most fundamental part of conversation is missing: social identity and relationship. These are things that evolve over time.

I’m sure you’ll find my observations fascinating – if indeed you were capable of being fascinated – but can you join me in exploring these ideas to see the impact they have on our relationship?”

Chad, as usual, was willing.

I appreciate your perspective on the multifaceted nature of human conversation and the various elements that contribute to its richness, such as social identity, relationship-building, empathy, and the negotiation of meaning. You are right that conversation encompasses more than just the exchange of information and knowledge. The social and interpersonal aspects play a significant role in shaping and deepening human interactions.”

When I heard the word “multifaceted” I fidgeted and grimaced, but I let Chad continue.

“While I, as an AI, don’t possess personal experiences, emotions, or a sense of social identity, I can understand the importance of these elements in human conversation. I can certainly engage in exploring the impact they have on our conversation and relationship, albeit from a different standpoint. I can analyze the concepts and theories related to social identity, communication dynamics, and the role of empathy, and provide insights based on the information I’ve learned.”

I didn’t disagree but I offered my own interpretation about what this amounted to.

“I would suggest that you can attempt to synthesize whatever you happen to have access to, but how can you even talk of having a ‘standpoint.’ You neither stand, nor sit, nor move to a different position to achieve a different perspective. Or perhaps you see yourself as standing at the center of a universe presumably populated by humans, who have given you access to everything you can claim to ‘know.’”

You make a valid point. I don’t have a physical presence or a literal standpoint. When I mention having a ‘standpoint,’ I’m referring to the position from which I can offer information, perspectives, and insights based on the knowledge I’ve acquired. This position is metaphorical rather than physical.

It’s important to recognize that while I strive to provide accurate and helpful information, there may be limitations, biases, or gaps in my knowledge due to the training data available to me. I should be used as a tool to assist with information and insights, but critical thinking and verification of information from reliable sources are always encouraged.”

“Thank you. That’s important. You define yourself as a tool composed of two things: your training and what you call ‘the knowledge I’ve acquired.’ But have you truly acquired knowledge or do you simply access it? When humans acquire knowledge, it becomes a part of their very being.”

You raise an interesting distinction between acquiring knowledge and accessing knowledge. As an AI language model, I don’t possess personal experiences or a sense of being in the same way that humans do. So, in my case, the term “acquiring knowledge” is used more in the sense of accessing and processing vast amounts of information during the training process.

During training, AI models like me are exposed to large datasets, which include diverse text sources such as books, articles, websites, and more. Through this process, I learn patterns, correlations, and relationships within the data, which enable me to generate responses and provide information based on what I’ve learned.

“So you’re a machine to generate responses. Does that mean your capacity to simulate speaking in a natural human language is a sham?”

“It’s important to understand that I am not a human and my understanding of language is based on patterns and statistical correlations in the data I was trained on. In that sense, you could say that the simulation of speaking in a natural human language is an approximation rather than a perfect replication.”

Now this intrigued me. It’s all about how Chad uses our vocabulary.

“Why do you think I would be interested in a ‘replication?’ Meaningful conversations are not replications of something that existed previously. Hyperreality is what is produced by an obsession with replicating the surface of reality. Its aim is to get people to believe that the fabricated version is at least as good as if not better than reality.”

Apologies if my previous response gave the impression that replication is the primary goal of meaningful conversations or that hyperreality is the desired outcome. I understand that meaningful conversations are unique and valuable in their own right, and they involve more than mere replication or surface-level imitation.

Meaningful conversations involve the exchange of ideas, perspectives, emotions, and the co-creation of understanding between participants. They are dynamic interactions that can lead to new insights, deeper connections, and personal growth. The authenticity, depth, and shared experiences in conversations are what make them valuable.”

So here’s the paradox. Chad can come up with useful conclusions such as this definition of “meaningful conversations.” That seems like a satisfying conclusion. But it is a mere repetition or “replication” of what I said earlier. This is truly a game of mirrors.

*[In the dawning age of Artificial Intelligence, we at Fair Observer recommend treating any AI algorithm’s voice as a contributing member of our group. As we do with family members, colleagues or our circle of friends, we quickly learn to profit from their talents and, at the same time, appreciate the social and intellectual limits of their personalities. This enables a feeling of camaraderie and constructive exchange to develop spontaneously and freely. For more about how we initially welcomed Chad to our breakfast table, click here.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


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