Can Artificial Intelligence Truly Learn a Language?

Published Date: 14/06/2024

Exploring the limits of AI language abilities and whether they can truly learn like humans "Speaking of Words  Can Artificial Intelligence Truly Learn a Language?

Many people would reply to this question by asking where I have been these last twenty years. We already have a pleasant young female voice on our GPS app telling us that in one mile we should get in the left lane. And we have SIRI and her knowledgeable sisters who will answer all our questions quickly and amiably; recently we learned that SIRI will be “enhanced” with ChatGPT4 and OpenAI. Surely these creatures have long since learned to speak?

By Michael Ferber, Speaking of Words,

Michael Ferber moved to New Hampshire in 1987 to join the English Department at UNH, from which he is now retired. Before that he earned his BA in Ancient Greek at Swarthmore College and his doctorate in English at Harvard, taught at Yale, and served on the staff of the Coalition for a New Foreign Policy in Washington, DC. In 1968 he stood trial in Federal Court in Boston for conspiracy to violate the draft law, with the pediatrician Benjamin Spock and three other men. He has published many books and articles on literature, and has a deep interest in linguistics. He is married to Susan Arnold; they have a daughter in San Francisco.


Q: Can AI machines truly learn a language?

A: No, AI machines can only simulate language abilities, they don't have consciousness or true understanding.

Q: What is the difference between human language and AI language?

A: Human language is a mental representation with rules and structures, while AI language is a stimulus-response arc multiplied and interconnected.

Q: Can AI machines achieve consciousness?

A: It is uncertain, but if they do, it may be a strange form of consciousness, not at all human.

Q: What are the moral implications of creating AI with human-like consciousness?

A: It raises questions of cruelty, compassion, and decency, and may require reevaluation of the research.

Q: Can we know if other beings, human or AI, are conscious or just clever automatons?

A: According to some philosophers, we cannot know for certain.