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Artificial Fluency - Large Language Models & Language as a Living Process

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This book completes my trilogy that began in 2017 with Artificial Intuition and, recently, Artificial Empathy in 2023.

You can also have a conversation with the book via GPT and Claude (via Poe).

In our quest to understand the human mind, we have long relied on the metaphor of the machine. Our thoughts are gears turning, our memories data on hard drives, our reasoning the execution of algorithms. But as artificial intelligence reaches new heights, this metaphor is reaching its limits.

The rise of language models like GPT-4, with their remarkable fluency, seamless translation abilities, and seemingly coherent conversation, has challenged our notions of what intelligence really means. While these AIs can skillfully mimic the surface of human language, they still lack true understanding, consciousness, empathy, and wisdom.

To fully grasp the potential and limits of these nascent intelligences, and to understand our own place beside them, we need a more evocative and expansive metaphor. One that captures the fluid, dynamic, generative essence of human cognition.

This book proposes a new metaphor, a new lens: language itself. By tracing the origins and evolution of human language—that fundamentally social, embodied, improvisational technology of meaning-making—we gain vital perspective on the nature of intelligence, human and artificial alike.

Across diverse disciplines, from philosophy to linguistics to cognitive science, a common insight emerges: intelligence is no mere mechanical computation, but a living process, a perpetual dance navigating tensions, contexts and constraints to weave understanding. It is deeply embodied, scaffolded by culture, animated by an unquenchable thirst for meaning.

Through language, the ultimate record of this quest, we see the principles of mind in a new light: the vital interplay of stability and creativity, logic and metaphor, self and society that propels us to ever wider understanding. We see how paradox and symmetry lead to novel insights, how we reframe and shift contexts to determine relevance, how our conceptual reality emerges through interpersonal imagination in a collectively conjured world.

By unveiling the linguistic foundations of intelligence, this book sketches a new language with which to understand mind, a richer lexicon to reason about reasoning. With it, we can begin reimagining possibilities for human-AI collaboration and charting wiser paths forward.

More than a technical challenge, this is an invitation to intellectual adventure, to radically reexamine what it means to be an intelligent, creative, meaning-making being in an age where machines increasingly mirror our capacities. A journey to build a future of intelligence that marries technological power with deeply human wisdom and purpose.

Fusing insights from philosophy, linguistics, anthropology, neuroscience, computer science and beyond, this book maps the frontiers of intelligence through the powerful lens of language: what it reveals about the mind's origins and workings, and what it illuminates about the vast landscape of possible minds that is just beginning to open before us. Joining boldness to nuance, it constructs new ways of seeing ourselves and our creations, and lights the way to a more vibrant collaboration between minds natural and artificial, as we pioneer an uncertain future together.

This metaphor of language—dynamic, generative, indelibly human even as it grows beyond us—gives us fresh eyes to perceive the topology of intelligence in a brave new world. A world not of mechanical minds, but one where natural and artificial intelligences interweave in the unending dance of meaning-making—so that we may understand our own minds anew, and dream what marvels we may yet create.

In "Artificial Fluency," you will embark on a odyssey, delving deep into the labyrinthine recesses of the human mind, a vast and intricate network of neurons that sparkle with the capacity for crafting meaning. As you journey through the pages, you will discover how we deftly intertwine insights from philosophy, psychology, computer science, and linguistics, creating a tapestry that illuminates the intricate dance of language, reasoning, creativity, and consciousness. This dance shapes our understanding of the world.

Your exploration will begin by planting a flag in the fertile ground of semiotics, the study of signs and symbols. With Charles Sanders Peirce's triadic framework as your lens, we will wield a powerful tool that reveals how signs bridge the gap between objects and interpretants, giving birth to meaning through the enchanting interplay of resemblance, causality, and convention. This framework will become your key, unlocking the secrets of the mind's diverse information processing, from the iconic and indexical to the symbolic and metaphorical.

As you build on this bedrock, we will venture into the social realms of language and reasoning, guided by the thinkers like Daniel Dor and Michael Tomasello. You will come to understand that language is not merely a solitary cognitive feat but a profoundly social technology. Through the collaborative construction of shared imaginative landscapes, we will see how humanity transcends individual limitations, cooperating, communicating, and amassing knowledge as a collective. Like a grand tapestry woven by countless hands, our shared understanding grows richer and more complex with each contribution.

We will then encounter language and reasoning as evolutionary allies, intertwined adaptations that enable collective sense-making, justification, and coordination. We will see how language acquisition is an apprenticeship, a journey into publicly negotiated conventions that mold our conceptual landscape. Reasoning, too, will emerge from intuitive processes, honed for the communicative exchange of arguments rather than cold, detached logic, like a dance of ideas that flows with the rhythm of conversation.

This social foundation will set the stage for a exploration of the dynamic and transformative nature of cognition. Embracing the enactive approach, we will come to see cognition as a dance emerging from active engagement with tensions and uncertainties within our "linguistic bodies," like a tightrope walker balancing on the edge of meaning. We will delve into relevance realization, the mind's ability to adapt to context by juggling competing constraints and salience factors, like a master chef creating a delicious meal from a myriad of ingredients. And with infectious enthusiasm, we will be introduced to Bohm's "rheomode," a verb-centric language that attunes our expressions to the fluid, creative movement of thought, like a river that flows and bends with the contours of the landscape.

As you dive deeper into the interplay of design, conversation, computation, attention, and relevance realization, we will uncover the complex, embodied processes by which minds enact meaning, converse, and creatively adapt. The threads of cybernetics, enactivism, and dynamic systems will weave together, creating illuminating models that reveal cognition as an emergent, recursive process, negotiating a myriad of practical and communicative demands, like a symphony of thought that harmonizes the disparate elements of our experience.

Finally, you will bridge the gap between conceptual models and applied concerns, discovering pathways for transformative growth and a brighter future. Exploring theories of cognitive development, paradoxical wisdom, pattern languages, and worldview integration, you will envision human progress through contemplative, compassionate, and creative reason. By embracing these ideas, you can cultivate a more holistic and empowering understanding of yourself and the world you inhabit, like a garden that flourishes with the nourishment of diverse perspectives.

Throughout this kaleidoscopic journey, you will encounter the vital yet often overlooked elements of embodiment, imagination, dynamism, and sociality in language, meaning, reasoning, and mind. Whether delving into paradoxes, behavioral design, or cognitive development, you will come to appreciate the power of intersubjective sense-making through metaphor, narrative, and conversation, challenging mechanistic, reductionistic, and formalistic paradigms that overlook the richness of lived experience. Like a prism that refracts light into a spectrum of colors, this exploration will reveal the multifaceted nature of the mind.

In the end, "Artificial Fluency" offers a profoundly humanistic understanding of the mind that I hope resonates with your deepest aspirations and desires, like a tuning fork that vibrates with the frequency of your soul. It serves as a clarion call, reminding you that consciousness cannot be reduced to mere information processing, just as a painting cannot be reduced to the sum of its brushstrokes. You will come to appreciate its poetic nobility, ethical sensitivity, aesthetic creativity, communal participation, and existential paradoxes, like a mosaic that creates a beautiful image from countless tiny fragments. By expanding your perspectives on reason and imagination, cognition and communication, this book I hope will illuminate paths for collective awakening and progress, inviting everyone to embrace the full complexity of what it means to be human in a diverse, interconnected world. Together, we can embark on this transformative journey of self-discovery and meaning-making, unlocking the boundless potential of our minds and creating a future that celebrates the beauty and depth of the human experience, like a grand adventure that unfolds with each step you take.


1 - Semiotic Processes

Introduction 12

The Language-Turn Metaphor 14

Signs 19

Semiotics 20

Signs Generate Meaning 23

Hypoiconicity 30

Kinds of Inferences 33

Semiotics a SuperSet of Logic 37

Tacit Knowlege 40

Code Duality 44

Transformers Models 47

Diffusion Models 54

Summary 59

2 - Attention, Relevance Realization, Shared Intentionality

Introduction 61

Attention 62

Relevance Realization 65

Shared Intentionality 69

Understanding as Perspective Taking 71

Meta-Levels of Fluency 78

Selective State Spaces 82

Hallucinations in LLMs 84

Retrieval Augmented Generation 89

The Most Valuable Widget 97

Summary 98

3 - Design - Conversation - Computation

Introduction 101

Cybernetics, Design and Conversations 101

Modularity 108

Computation 113

Borges and Eco on Fiction 119

Prompting Design 124

Summary 126

4 - Social Technology

Introduction 129

Living Languages 129

Agential Matter 135

Symbolic Emergence 145

Hive Minds 149

Conversational Agents 150

Summary 157

5 - Reasoning and Rationality

Introduction 160

Language and Reasoning 162

Reasoning from Intuition 164

Rationality and Reasoning 166

Reasoning and Evolutionary Language 169

Categorization is not thinking 171

Flat Thinking 173

Time Travel Development 178

Symbol Tuning 184

Inner Monologue 187

Knowledge Graphs and LLMs 189

Summary 192

6 - Tensions - Relevance Realization

Introduction 195

Evolution of Agency 197

Dialectical Tensions 203

Enacting Language 209

Cognitive Tradeoffs 212

Tensegrity 214

Forms of Creativity 220

Constraint Programming 222

Self-Correction 226

Summary 228

7 - Meaning Making - Semantic Closure

Introduction 231

Semantic Closure 232

Large Language Models 235

Abduction and Hypothesis Generation 240

Language Evolution and Semantic Closure 248

Self Optimization 249

Evolutionary Prompting 255

Model Composition and Merging 260

Summary 262

8 - Process Metaphysics

Introduction 265

Process Metaphysics 265

Noun-Centric Civilization 268

Verb-Centric Thinking 272

Flow Mode 276

Strange Loops 285

Conversations and Rheomode 289

Speculative Rhetoric 291

Quaternion Process Theory 293

Prompt Programming 297

Summary 301

9 - A Pattern Language for Processes

Introduction 303

Pattern Languages 303

Generative Languages 305

Structure-Preserving Transformations 307

Semiotic Motion 309

Process Patterns 317

Gestalt 323

Discovering Latent Expertise 324

Self-Composing Reasoning Structures 328

Finding Magic Rabbits 331

Pattern Mining 334

Summary 337

10 Paradox - Symmetry Breaking

Introduction 339

Limited Beings 339

Epistemic Humility 344

Analogy Making 345

Symmetry Breaking 348

The Meaning of Meaning 352

Circumlocutory Text 354

Resolving Paradoxes 355

Bongard Problems 357

Subtraction 361

Abductive Coupling 364

Analogical Prompting 371

Domain Specific LLMs 375

Generalization Meta Learning 380

Flow Engineering 383

Summary 386

11 Metaphorical Exemplification

Introduction 388

Bisociation 389

Diffusion Models 394

Conceptual Blending 401

Goodman’s Language and Art 407

The Aesthetic Experience 410

Rote Adaptiveness 414

Summary 419

12 Cognitive Maturity - Anti-fragility

Introduction 421

Constructive Adult Development 421

Spiral Dynamics 422

Four Quadrants 424

Stages of Mind 427

Human Consciousness 429

Narcissism and Empathy 432

World Views 437

Exponential Change 441

Multi-Polar Traps 447

Boundary Objects 450

Light Cone of Care 454

Anti-Fragility 456

The Medium is the Message 458

Summary 459

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Artificial Fluency - Large Language Models & Language as a Living Process

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