Words have meaning for people because we use them to make sense of the world. RyanJLane/E+ via Getty ImagesWhen we asked GPT-3, an extremely powerful and popular artificial intelligence language system, whether you’d be more likely to use a paper map or a stone to fan life into coals for a barbecue, it preferred the stone.

To smooth your wrinkled skirt, would you grab a warm thermos or a hairpin? GPT-3 suggested the hairpin.

And if you need to cover your hair for work in a fast-food restaurant, which would work better, a paper sandwich wrapper or a hamburger bun? GPT-3 went for the bun.

Why does GPT-3 make those choices when most people choose the alternative? Because GPT-3 does not understand language the way humans do.

Bodiless words

One of us is a psychology researcher who over 20 years ago presented a series of scenarios like those above to test the understanding of a

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