Colloquy Downeast Blue Hill Maine

Colloquy Downeast

Spirited Conversations in Great Company

FacilitatorJack Lynch
Date & Time Tuesdays Oct 3, 10, 17, and 24
9:30 am-11:30 am
LocationNote: Changed to Zoom- links will be sent out to those who have registered

The new ChatGPT technology has gone viral with publicity from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Manchester Guardian, and countless others. Our colloquy discussions will focus on understanding the technology with sufficient depth to analyze and evaluate the claims of the enthusiastic press as well as doubtful deep thinkers and overanxious Luddites. We will ask why this breakthrough is currently occurring and why the technology is prone to pseudo-knowledge and unintentional misrepresentation. We will also discuss whether the human mind and brain are based on mechanisms found in ChatGPT and whether the technology might change the course of cognitive science research and our image of who we are as a species.

Jack Lynch has a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and worked at MIT Lincoln Laboratory for 25 years doing research. He retired at age 55 to do research in cognitive science as an independent scholar. Jack has been developing an analog model of the mind which offers an alternative to the mainstream views of cognitive scientists who endorse the computational theory of mind.

  ▼ Syllabus/Reading


Week 1 

Review of press releases concerning ChatGPT.

Why the hype? Why the concerns?

If it works, what are the intended applications?

  What are the perceived problems?

Why did this technology arrive now?

Week 2. What are the fundamental principles behind the technology, and what was the algorithm breakthrough? What is a language model or an n-gram language model? What does it take to train the enormous language model? We will jointly watch a few short videos describing key concepts.   

Week 3:  Why do some people feel that the chat GPT is human, that is, conscious or sentient? Does ChatGPT understand what you are saying? Could any AI technology ever appear to be intelligent or conscious?

Week 4:

We discuss opinion articles by Kissinger and Chomsky, which open deeper discussions on AI and our future. (What is thought? What is intelligence? What should community or government oversight be in future technological development?)

Reading list.

I strongly recommend lightly reading the Wikipedia article on ChatGPT before the first class. Please skim sections that are too technical. . There are 133 references with working URLs archived by Wikipedia. Randomly select and read three newspaper articles expounding the hype and horror of GPT. Read before the first class, and we will discuss and evaluate various opinions.

I strongly recommend you closely read the carefully written articles by Henry Kissinger (ref. #83) and a second by Noam Chomsky (ref. #85) before the third class, when we will explore fundamental issues with GPT technology. Note that many URL links are not live, meaning you must copy and paste them into the URL window in your browser.

Huttenlocher, Daniel; Kissinger, Henry; Schmidt, Eric (February 24, 2023). “Opinion | ChatGPT Heralds an Intellectual Revolution”The Wall Street JournalArchived from the original on February 25, 2023. (CLICK on ARCHIVED)

Noam Chomsky: The False Promise of ChatGPT; (Opinion guest essay, New York Times, March 8, 2023.); . (PASTE THIS URL)

The Blue Hill Library has print copies of the New York Times but not the Wall Street Journal. BHL also offers access to the Digital Maine Library, which provides access to everything. You might also search for GPT articles in the British newspaper, The Manchester Guardian, to get a broader perspective. 

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