Thank you for taking the time to consider this!
I agree with the criticism of spec* in your third paragraph (though if I'm honest I think it largely applies to sim* too). I can weakly argue that irl we do say "speculating further" and similar... but really I think your complaint about a misleading suggestion of agency allocation is correct. I wrestled with this before submitting the comment, but one of the things that led me to go ahead and post it was trying it on in the context of your paragraph that begins "I think that implicit type-confusion is common..." In your autoregressive loop, I can picture each iteration more easily as asking for a next, incrementally more informed speculation than anything that's clear to me in simulator/simulacrum terms, especially since with each step GPT might seem to be giving its prior simulacrum another turn of the crank, replacing it with a new one, switching to oracle mode, or going off on an uninterpretable flight of fancy.
But, of course, the reason spec* fits more easily (imho) is that it's so very non-committal - maybe too non-committal to be of any use.
The "fluid, schizophrenic way that agency arises in GPT’s behavior", as you so beautifully put it, has to be the crux. What is it that GPT does at each iteration, as it implicitly constructs state while predicting again? The special thing about GPT is specifically having a bunch of knowledge that lets it make language predictions in such a way that higher-order phenomena like agency systematically emerge over the reductive physics/automaton (analogic) base. I guess I feel both sim* and spec* walk around that special thing without really touching it. (Am I missing something about sim* that makes contact?)
Looking at it this way emphasizes the degree to which the special thing is not only in GPT, but also in the accumulated cognitive product of the human species to date, as proxied by the sequenced and structured text on the internet. Somehow the AI ghosts that flow through GPT, like the impressive but imperfect chess engine in my other comment, are implicitly lurking in all that accumulated text. Somehow GPT is using chained prediction to mine from that base not just knowledge, but also agents, oracles, and perhaps other types of AI we as yet have no names for, and using those to further improve its own predictions. What is the True Name of something that does that?
Thank you for this amazing and clarifying post.
You're operating far above my pay grade in connection with any of this subject matter, but nonetheless I'm going to dare a different suggestion for the True Names: do you think there's any merit to -speculators- and -speculations-? I believe these names fit all the excellent and clarifying tests and criteria presented in your post; in particular those referencing counterfactual configurations and process specification through chaining. Furthermore I think they have some advantages of their own. Speculators producing speculations seem more the right relationship between the two main concepts than simulators producing simulacra. (I don't think they do that!) Also, simulators have such a long history in digital systems of being aimed at deterministic fidelity to a reference system, which could be at odds with the abundant production of counterfactuals I believe you're actually seeking to emphasize here. Finally, speculations can be fanciful, realistic, or absurd, a nice match to the variety of outputs produced by GPT in the presence of different types of prompting, something you highlight, I think correctly, as a hallmark of GPT's status as a novel type of AI. One who speculates is a certain type of thinker: I propose that GPT is that type.
What do you think?