Like many others, I’ve been playing around with ChatGPT, the OpenAI chatbot. It’s really good at certain things. It does make some weird mistakes in highly technical things, and it has weird contradictions (e.g., when I ask it “when is Hanukkah?” it gives me the Hebrew date and the Gregorian date for this year. When I ask it “what year is it?” the response is that it doesn’t have that kind of contextual information.)
Here’s a sample conversation:
Me: how do spiders know how dense to make their webs?
ChatGPT: Spiders have a natural instinct to spin webs of a certain density, based on their species and the environment they live in. For example, some species of spiders live in dense forests, where their webs need to be strong and sturdy to catch prey. Other species live in more open areas, where their webs can be less dense and still be effective at catching prey. Over time, spiders have evolved to spin webs of the optimal density for their specific habitat and hunting needs.
Me: are spiders conscious of the density they need to weave?
ChatGPT: It is unlikely that spiders are consciously aware of the density they need to weave into their webs. Spiders have a natural instinct to spin webs of a certain density based on their species and environment, and this behavior is likely controlled by their brains and nervous system. However, this does not necessarily mean that spiders are consciously aware of the density of their webs in the same way that humans are aware of their own thoughts and actions.
Me: why do you think spiders are not consciously aware?
ChatGPT: As a large language model trained by OpenAI, I don’t have the ability to know the inner workings of a spider’s mind or consciousness. It is impossible for me to know for certain whether or not spiders are consciously aware of the density of their webs. However, it is generally believed that insects and other arthropods do not have the same level of consciousness as humans and other mammals. This is because their brains are much simpler and less developed than the brains of mammals, and they are not capable of experiencing the same range of thoughts and emotions. While spiders are able to perform complex behaviors, such as spinning webs, it is unlikely that they do so with the same level of consciousness as humans.
Me: how would you test for consciousness?
ChatGPT: There is no definitive way to test for consciousness in any organism, including humans. Consciousness is a complex and poorly understood phenomenon, and scientists and philosophers have been debating its nature for centuries. In general, consciousness is thought to involve an awareness of one’s own thoughts and surroundings, as well as the ability to experience and respond to stimuli in the environment.
Me: there are crows in my tree that seem to like to play and they recognize me.
ChatGPT: Crows are highly intelligent birds, and they are known for their ability to learn, adapt, and solve problems. It is not surprising that the crows in your tree recognize you and appear to enjoy playing. Crows are social animals, and they are known to form strong bonds with other members of their group, including other crows and even humans. It is possible that the crows in your tree see you as a part of their group and enjoy interacting with you. If you would like to encourage the crows to continue visiting your tree, you could try offering them food, such as seeds or nuts, to attract them. You could also try to engage with them by making noises or gestures to get their attention. Just be sure to approach them carefully and respect their space, as crows can be protective of their territory.
Me: the crows seem a lot more conscious than some people I interact with.
ChatGPT: It is difficult to compare the level of consciousness between different species, as consciousness is a complex and poorly understood phenomenon. However, it is generally believed that crows, as well as other birds and mammals, have a certain level of consciousness that allows them to be aware of their surroundings and experience thoughts and emotions. It is also possible that the crows you are observing are exhibiting behaviors that suggest a high level of intelligence and problem-solving ability, which may appear to be similar to consciousness in humans. However, it is important to remember that the level of consciousness in any species is difficult to determine and can vary among individuals.
Me: a crow learns to speak english. tell me a story of what happens next.
ChatGPT: One day, a crow in a small town in the United States learns to speak English. At first, the other crows in the town are amazed and curious about this new development. They gather around the speaking crow to listen to it, and some even try to mimic its sounds. The speaking crow becomes somewhat of a local celebrity, and people in the town start to take notice.
As word of the speaking crow spreads, people from all over the country come to see it. Some bring gifts and treats for the crow, while others try to communicate with it. The crow becomes the star attraction at the local park, where people come to see it and listen to it speak.
Over time, the speaking crow becomes more and more confident in its ability to communicate with humans. It starts to learn more words and phrases, and it even starts to hold short conversations with people. The crow becomes so good at speaking English that it is featured on the local news, and people from all over the world start to take notice.
Eventually, the speaking crow becomes a global sensation, with people from all corners of the world coming to see it and listen to it speak. The crow becomes a symbol of the intelligence and adaptability of birds, and it inspires other crows and birds to try to learn to speak as well. The speaking crow becomes a beloved and iconic figure, remembered for its ability to bridge the gap between humans and animals.(“Conversation” from 9 December 2022 on the OpenAI ChatGPT beta chat system)