17 Dec 2023 11:17 - 17 Dec 2023 11:27
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    • A term proposed by Phil Agre in his essay @Writing and Representation , meaning, the environment in which a mental homunculus operates. In the classical AI planning model, the homunculus is some kind of general problem solver or optimizer, that operates within an environment made up of representations.
    • But the argument about homunculi distracts from a deeper issue. If the homunculus repeats in miniature certain acts of its host, where does it conduct these acts? The little person lives in a little world -- the host's surroundings reconstructed in his or her head. This little world deserves a Latin word of its own. Let us call it the orbiculus. One way to say "world" is orbis terrarum, roughly "earthly sphere". But orbis, I am told, extends metaphorically in the same ways as "world" in English: one might speak of the world of a peasant or a movie director, meaning roughly their existential world, "the world they live in" (more literally, their sphere). So the orbiculus is your world copied into your head.
    • AI is full of orbiculi. A "world model" is precisely an orbiculus; it's a model of the world inside your head. Or consider the slogan of vision as "inverse optics": visual processing takes a retinal image and reconstructs the world that produced it (Hurlbert and Poggio 1988). You'll also find an orbiculus almost anywhere you see an AI person talk about "reasoning about X". This X might be solid objects, time-extended processes, problem-solving situations, communicative interactions, or any of a hundred other things. "Reasoning about" X suggests a purely internal cognitive process, as opposed to more active phrases like "using" or "participating in" X.
    • Searle's Chinese Room is an orbiculus, of course.