Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Searle on the Computer Model of the mind

I have linked to an attack on the Computer Model of the Mind by Searle that Feser thinks decisive, over on Dangerous Idea 2. No one has responded yet, so I thought I put something over here.

54 comments:

Ilíon said...

That's one of the problems of running multiple blogs, isn't it? Myself, I almost never visit DI2.

Ilíon said...

Even without reading Searle's paper (or article or whatever is the correct description), I can tell you that I know that "the computer model of the mind" is false, and I can tell you that I know that no computer program will ever be a mind.

It is logically impossible for a computer program to ever be a mind: a computer is *nothing but* a glorified abacus, and a computer program is *nothing but* an algorithm for moving around the virtual beads on that glorified abacus.

Moreover, those who assert (false though the assertion is) that someday computer programs will be minds are logically compelled -- if they wish to be honest in the sense of being logically consistent -- to posit, or at least consider it to be likely true, the we ourselves are already a computer simulation.

Mike Darus said...

Once software is programmed into a computer, the computer no longer serves as a model of the mind -- it only emulates a mind. Don't be fooled by computers with hardwired chips that contain their software. Software is software. The computer model does not disprove the AfR, rather it proves that there must be a sufficient cause for mind. The machine alone does not attain it.

Perezoso said...

Note that Doc Feser insists that Searle is a dualist, notwithstanding the fact that Searle has denied he is a dualist (at least in the metaphysical sense). Mental acts such as thinking (including "meaning", whatever that is) may seem anomalous, unique, non-reduceable (at this time, anyway), but that does not imply that thinking involves an immortal soul-ghost: rather obvious point, except to those in the theo-business.

Searle has at other times suggested the physical and neurological basis for thinking, and holds to external realism (unlike some of the idealists that Feser quotes).

IN the jargon, Searle's position something like non-reduceable physical-neurological monism: so Searle would probably agree that mental events are brain events, but that specific interactions are unknown (at this present juncture).

A brain scientist Searle is not, however, and Searle's thoughts on computer/AI stuff seems a bit outdated. There is ample evidence suggesting that some mental events can be traced to brain events, to neurological wiring (then, the penal code for DUI suggests as much).

The neurokinetics programs now used by some handicapped people demonstrates something like that. Given that an cortical interface, implanted in back of the skull can be linked to a network (or via wireless), and used to perform commands (like using a keypad, turning on TV, etc) the mental act/brain act identity seems rather plausible. Perhaps not all mental acts will be translatable, at least for a few centuries--like exactly what occurs neurologically when one enjoys Debussy, OR when a Rev. Hagee starts chanting from the Book of Revelation... Holy blood red heifer, batman

Victor Reppert said...

Give John Hagee a rest, would you Perezoso. I wouldn't be caught dead anywhere near his church, and you know it.

Victor Reppert said...

Feser has arguments in favor of the claim that his position entails property dualism, even though he himself is reluctant to admit it.

Gordon Knight said...

The problem is that the computer model tries to reduce semantics to syntax.

I know Searle says he is not a dualist, but I think this is just because he wants to sound all scientific and "dualism" is a bad word. Non-reductive materialism sounds a lot like property dualism to me.

Andrew T. said...

Maybe I've misunderstood, but it seems to me that the Searle article argues that the brain is not a digital computer. Even if true, that doesn't defeat all possible computer models of the mind; e.g., analog computers. No?

Ilíon said...

Yes it does, Andrew T.

A computer, whether analog or digital, is just a glorified abacus.

Counting does not equal mind. And, neither an abacus nor a computer actually count, that's jst how we talk about the devices.

The Family said...

A good case can be made that the difference between a computer program or the "Chinese Room" model of cognition is the flexibility of output on the same input that the mind clearly has. This flexibility may be free will or at least something a little like free will. A good argument about this (though he subscribes ultimately, I think, to the Eastern mystic idea of consciousness as illusion) can be found here:

Ramachandran

Ilíon said...

An argument (or philosophy) which includes "consciousness is an illusion" can *never* be a good case.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Rama certainly is no eastern mystic.

For instance, you might read the first sentence of his article: "Nothing is more chastening to human vanity than the realization that the richness of our mental life — all our thoughts, feelings, emotions, even what we regard as our intimate self—arises exclusively from the activity of little wisps of protoplasm in the brain."

He is a good neurophile like myself.

Ilíon said...

Do you even know what the term "analog computer" refers to?

For instance, an abacus is a simple analog computer, and a slide-rule is an analog computer which is capable of being used to solve more complex problems than is an abacus.

Blue Devil Knight said...

That article by Rama/Hirstein is very fun incidentally.

There isn't much on super-Turing computation out there that is well thought out. Clearly some artificial neural networks are capable of super-Turing computation, this has been demonstrated. But it is still computation, even though it is of a different sort than you would do in a discrete symbol-pushing system like an abacus or modern laptop.

Because real physical systems, like brains, have finite resolution becaue of ineliminable noise, it isn't clear the distinction is very significant.

The software metaphor perhaps was prematurely taken a bit literally by some people. It's a good metaphor, and an even better analogy, but it's premature to get all excited about it, much like the early 'telophone switch' metaphor of the mind in the 1930s that was popular when that was the hottest large-scale technology that had to do with information flow and transfer.

Whatever the hottest technology is that invovles information flow and transfer, that will become the latest metaphor for the mind. At least until the mind is explained in more literal terms. Hell, maybe then we'll realize that the mind is the brain's software.

Ilíon said...

Mike Darus: "Once software is programmed into a computer, the computer no longer serves as a model of the mind -- it only emulates a mind. ..."

Even to phrase it that was is incorrect and misleading.

A computer, or to be more precise, a computer program, does not and cannot emulate any mind. Rather, it can emulate certain (and limited) mental functions: specifically counting and thus that which can be expressed in terms of, or represented by, counting.


Mike Darus: "... Don't be fooled by computers with hardwired chips that contain their software. Software is software. ..."

Just so. All modern digital computers are designed and built with the *real* software which runs the computer hard-coded into the various chips which control the sub-systems of the computer. What we commonly call "software" ... the Windows operating system, for instance ... is more properly called "data" or "inputs" to the CPU.

Ilíon said...

Hey, BDK! This is where you criticize me as "pedantic" ... it will make a fitting bookend to your false accusation that I am a sophist and a post-modernist.

The Family said...

Blue Devil Knight said:

"
Rama certainly is no eastern mystic.
"

True, but I think his claim that consciousness is an illusion produced by limbic and frontal feedback loops and the like (the the way the harmony of a chord is in that sense an illusion produced by simultaneous notes) is definitely mystical, since he is claiming the existence, at least as a perception, of something that he also claims is an illusion.

This does seem to have some things in common with the Hindu concept of individual consciousness as illusion, as opposed to a real ultimate unifying consciousness.

I think that his claim of consciousness to be a perceptual illusion is also well beyond standard medical/neurological definitions of consciousness as a measurable state.

Perezoso said...

One could do some research into the beginning of computer science in 40s and 50s and probably discover people saying, well computers might work as adding machines, but will never play chess. A few decades later, Deep Blue and other chess engines defeat grandmasters.

Chess involves fairly complex forms of thinking, arguably as complex as say a person understanding propositions. Of course the computer merely runs through possible positions far more rapidly than a human can, yet at the very least the cognitive processes involved with chess playing have been duplicated, and translated into digital form (and improved, at least in terms of processing time).

It's not that brains are analogous to computers; computers/CPUs are analogous to brains, though with certain limitations (as with semantics, though human creativity, inference, or conceptual skills are more problematic).

Finney said...

Doesn't John Searle believe in free-will?

Ilíon said...

The Family: "... I think that his claim of consciousness to be a perceptual illusion is also well beyond standard medical/neurological definitions of consciousness as a measurable state."

Actually, "standard medical/neurological definitions of consciousness" -- which is to say, the "definitions" of the atheists/materialists who currently control "science" -- also assert that consciousness is an illusion. They're ususally just a bit more subtle about it than to assert it directly and up-front.

Subltly asserted or not, just *who* is having the illusion? How can there be any illusion if there is no conscious agent who suffers the delusion?

"I am not a conscious agent" is as much an oxymoron as "I do not exist."

Ilíon said...

Willfully Ignorant Fool: "One could do some research into the beginning of computer science in 40s and 50s and probably discover people saying, well computers might work as adding machines, but will never play chess. A few decades later, Deep Blue and other chess engines defeat grandmasters."

You are so willfully ignorant! And such a pathetic fool about it.

If you were willing to know and understand the truth, even this Wikipedia entry contains enough information to correct your willful misconceptions.

Kasparov was not playing against "a computer." Rather, he was playing against a huge team of other human beings who had at their disposal a machine designed specifically to evaluate chess moves at computer speeds and, importantly, to use hundreds of thousands of grandmaster games and moves as part of its evaluations.

In effect, Kasparov was playing against multiple disembodied grandmasters (i.e. they were not subject to the distractions and fatigue that he, as an embodied chess player, was) who had available to them many multiples of the time available to him for evaluating the possibilities at each move.

Ilíon said...

Finney: "Doesn't John Searle believe in free-will?"

*Everyone* -- including those who vociferously deny and attempt to argue against the reality of "free will" -- believes that we are free agents. *Any* attempt to convince another that humans are not free is in itself indisputable proof that the denier-of-freedom does not really believe what he asserts.

What you really mean is "does John Searle assert or deny the reality of human free-will?"

Here is a transcript which purports to be of an interview (no date given) with Searle.

Assuming that this transcript is genuine, it appears to be the case that (at least as of that un-named date) he consciously and without question or equivocation recognizes the incompatibility of materialism/determinism with the experience of freedom which we each directly observe with respect to ourselves ... but that he doesn't quite make the full step and realize that "science" cannot really tell us the truth about reality and the nature of reality.

It's an interesting interview, and it also deal with some of the silliness and/or foolishness being asserted in this and some of the other current threads here at DI.

Perezoso said...

You're the fool, Il Duce Ilion, but then so were the fools who created you. As I said before coward, step in a ring, like legal and proper.

You don't know jack about the issues Searle is discussing, little man; and I doubt you know a CPU from the CIA. Stick to like the pizza makin' and yr catechism, puto.

Ilíon said...

Pathetic little one, the *essence* of being a fool is that one lies to oneself ... frequently in preparation to lying to others.

To refuse to reason properly in accord with the "rules" of logic -- which is your schtick, after all -- is exactly to lie to oneself.

Ergo, you *are* a fool. And you not even amusing at it.

Perezoso said...

Pathetic little punk, STFU, like soon.

You don't know jack about computing, or chess, or even Searle's lightweight points.

Perezoso said...

Idion hasn't even bothered to read the Searle essay. Then he's probably challenged by his Ebonics Good Book.

You're an embarrassment to the blogosphere, little Idion. There's no magic ghost in your head, fool. Even Searle agrees to that.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Perezoso: it is truly a mistake to take Ilion seriously enough to get annoyed by him. It would be like getting mad at Ed Anger. If you aren't laughing at and being entertained by Ilion, I think you are missing the point.

If you look at the threads, you are feeding him. There is an expression about trolls you probably know...

Of course he doesn't know what he is talking about, but if you don't laugh you are missing the point I think. It hilarious when he talks about modern neurologists' definiton of consciousness as an illusion.

Blue Devil Knight said...

On Ramachandran: he does use the term "illusion" to describe many things (e.g., phantom limbs, the idea of a persisting self over time), but he thinks qualia are real. They are a kind of summary of what is going on in the sensory side of the brain, something to be handed over to the executive/limbic portions of the brain so that it can make decisions based on all the present evidence at the brain's disposal.

I'm not endorsing his view (though I think it is along the right track: the contents of perceptual consciousness do seem to be some kind of model/simulation/representation of what is presently happening out in the world).

I have defended this view of consciousness (which I called the 'perspectival world model' theory of conscious contents at this post).

Frankly, my position has changed somewhat since writing that, but I think it is approaching the truth, and my description of the eight limitations of the model are on target.

Anonymous said...

What's really hilarious is BDK dismissing Ilion for his tone - to, of all people, Perry the wannabe philosopher who spouts off as much or more trash than Ilion ever does, and far more often.

At least Ilion tends to make sense. Perry's all bluster, and BDK.. you have a veneer of politeness, but it's just a veneer over very little substance. But at least you've got the veneer. Learn something from the man, Perry!

Perezoso said...

BDK: you are correct. Note the believers (not jus' Illin') on DI do this to anyone who takes even a slightly skeptical view of religion, or of their precious soul-mind. Something as trivial as a chess engine offends them.

Anyone who does not believe will be insulted and defamed. That's how the Xtian mob (especially the calvinist biblethumper sorts) operates.

Ilíon said...

BDK: "On Ramachandran: he does use the term "illusion" to describe many things (e.g., phantom limbs, the idea of a persisting self over time), but he thinks qualia are real. They are a kind of summary of what is going on in the sensory side of the brain, something to be handed over to the executive/limbic portions of the brain so that it can make decisions based on all the present evidence at the brain's disposal."

How in the name of reason can 'qualia' be real when the self who perceives those 'qualia' doesn't even exist?


BDK: "On Ramachandran: he does use the term "illusion" to describe many things (e.g., ... the idea of a persisting self over time) ... "

Any logically consistent atheism *must* assert that there is no self. And thereby do we know without possibility of error that atheism is false.

Ilíon said...

I'm sorry, I forgot to include the link above: Here is a transcript which purports to be of an interview (no date given) with Searle: Minds, Brains and Science with John Searle, Ph.D.

The Family said...

Illion says:

" How in the name of reason can 'qualia' be real when the self who perceives those 'qualia' doesn't even exist? "

My take on this is the Rama is a working dualist, like Sir John Eccles, but unlike Eccles he prefers to conveniently label the non-physical as illusion. I suspect he would not deny this except for concern about the fallout from more monist colleagues.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Rama is no dualist. He is a neurophile like myself. My first rotation in grad school was in his lab while he was writing that paper. The thing with Rama is he is somewhat sloppy and provocative with his language.

Perezoso: Most of the people at this site are pretty good about confronting ideas rather than resorting to silly ad hominem attacks. Otherwise I wouldn't waste my time here. Ilion is an exception, and an equal opportunity offender.

Anonymous: I try to be honest, not polite. There is a huge difference. At this site it is sometimes tempting to tone down my naturalism to make it seem more friendly to theists, but that would be dishonest, as it is inconsistent with theism.

This is the best site to get intellectually challenged by people who aren't assholes (Ilion notwithstanding). DI2 is even better, because it focuses on things I know something about.

Finney said...

Well, I know that in "rationality in action" he does assert the existence of free-will as a prerequisite to rationality. Some sources say he's not, so I'm unsure.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Searle definitely believes in free will. See his recent book 'Freedom and Neurobiology.' He thinks quantum mechanics might be important there. Unfortunately.

Ilíon said...

The intellectually Dishonest BDK: "I try to be honest, not polite. There is a huge difference."

But, of course, I am a "troll" (or is it now "asshole?") because I refuse to be "polite" at the expense of truth.

Ilíon said...

BDK: "Searle definitely believes in free will. See his recent book 'Freedom and Neurobiology.' He thinks quantum mechanics might be important there. Unfortunately."

Does he? According to this transcript which purports to be of an interview (no date given) with Searle: Minds, Brains and Science with John Searle, Ph.D. he does not.

Perezoso said...

Ah Dr. Idion taking on ye olde Mind-Body problem. Great Caesar's Ghost!

Zzzz Zzzz.



Searle favors a form of anomalous physicalism, I believe. Some accuse him of being naive in terms of applying quantum indeterminism to a macro event like human thinking, though I did read that he defended determinism recently. It's quite difficult to defeat determinism (unless you want to say like, matter thinks, in the form of neurons, etc), just like it's difficult to defeat universal gravitation. Ergo, an Idion's a product of his environment, and poor conditioning.

Victor Reppert said...

I'll say it again. The key to blogging, and blog commenting, is to know what to ignore.

Anonymous said...

agreed.

Perezoso said...

yes, like how you ignore any posts which challenge your faith, for the most part. Then calling a Searle a dualist (if not a religious thinker of some sort), that's to be expected.

Victor Reppert said...

I never said Searle was a dualist. I said that Feser had an argument to the effect that Searle is logically committed to property dualism, and that is, of course, not the same as substance dualism.

I don't ignore challenges to my faith. I wouldn't discuss the argument from evil if I did that. I ignore silly and rude non-sequiturs that don't contribute to the discussion.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Ilion: I said he thinks QM might be important for freedom (it is sort of hidden in the back of the book even though at the beginning of the book he comes off as skeptical much like he does in that interview).

But he clearly takes freedom seriously.

In a letter to a friend of mine who is a quantophile, he wrote that the only way science will be able to accommodate free will is via quantum mechanics. I think this may be a change from some of his earlier stuff, but as I said it's hidden in his book.

Ilíon said...

BDK: "In a letter to a friend of mine who is a quantophile, he wrote that the only way science will be able to accommodate free will is via quantum mechanics. I think this may be a change from some of his earlier stuff, but as I said it's hidden in his book."

Then again, and taking into account some of what he said in that interview I found (though I did not find a date for it so that in could be placed in a timeline), he may be merely pointing to the fact that 'science' as currently construed, which is to say materialistic philosophy/metaphysics tricked out in the garb of simple physics, cannot deal with the reality of "free-will" as we all experience it, but must rather attempt to reduce it to something compatible with materialism.

Blue Devil Knight said...

That interview is from 1998, his book on freedom was published in 2006.

Perezoso said...

Read Searle's essay on free will and determinism. He attempts to justify freedom, and a libertarian view (though acknowledging force of determinism), but whether he succeeds is another matter. His use of quantum mechanics to defend freedom has been criticized.

For that matter, a few random, subatomic glitches does not suffice to prove libertarian free will. Given naturalism, the Manson's family's phunn would be determined--they could not have done otherwise--even if a few random events occurred, though other influences possible (drugs).

Choice then would be a type of illusion, and itself caused: its just that the usual consumer can't believe that a Patty Krenwinkle's a victim of poor conditioning....or genetics. they want to posit some ....gremlins (like Plantinga's gremlins behind the scenes of earthquakes, plagues, so forth).

Blue Devil Knight said...

The 'free will versus determinism' dichotomy is overrated (and false). We have good reason to think determinism is false (from QM), but that doesn't imply free will exists. The more interesting dichotomy is between 'free will and nomically determined.' That is, do we follow the nomic regularities of physics or not?

Mike Wiest said...

Hi, I'm the quantophile friend mentioned by BDK. I don't have time to engage the whole discussion here, but re: BDK's point about "free will vs. determinism" vs. "free will vs. nomically determined." I think you're right to distinguish those two dichotomies, but not to throw out the first one and replace it with the second one. In other words, I agree that the failure of physical determinism doesn't imply free will (= the failure of behavioral determinism or functional brain determinism or something like that), but we would still like to know if free will is real or not. Then, if it is, we would like to answer the second question about whether it violates known physics or not.

Peace

Mike Wiest said...

ps. I think it would help to put a link directly to the Searle argument. I just found it, and I would summarize it with the line:

Syntax and semantics are relative to an observer.

In other words they are subjective and can't be taken to be an intrinsic property of a physical system if that "physical" is assumed at the outset to refer only to things that lack any intrinsic subjective properties. I do think this is a fundamental insight, and I frankly don't understand why so many intelligent people don't seem to be able to accept it.

On the other hand, in the debate about "materialism" versus "supernaturalism" (or whatever non-contentious term we can agree on for the alternative to materialism), I don't know if the question is very well defined. I mean, if we find that physics as presently understood cannot accomodate mind, then why can't we consider the Truth of the matter (whatever it turns out to be) to be "new physics"?

The simplest way to do this in my view is to try to develop a non-naive version of panpsychism, in which physical matter is assumed to have some kind of mental property, which when arranged in the form of a brain gives rise to the kind of mind we all experience. This isn't cheating: physics habitually adds new fundamental properties to its bag of tricks. For example, "electric charge." We don't really know what electric charge is; it's just the name we gave to a property that makes things act in a certain way.

Panpsychism is not materialism as usually formulated, but neither does it have to embrace "supernaturalism," which seems to mean something like--there are no rules. I'm not afraid of the word supernaturalism, I'm just not sure what it would really mean. Even a theist can think of the world as determined by God, a la Spinoza. And nowadays, even theism that includes free will could be consistent with physics.

Can't we all just get along?

Ha!

Blue Devil Knight said...

Mike: that is an interesting point. I was assuming that if we are nomically constrained (by laws of physics), then we don't have the kind of free will that most of its advocates want.

In fact, in this modified way of putting things I am a compatibalist, but not between free will and determinism, but free will and nomic constraint.

PS Panpsychism is not an insane option, as much as I hate to admit it (even though it struggles to escape from epiphenomenalism).

Ilíon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ilíon said...

The New Atlantis, Ari N. Schulman: Why Minds Are Not Like Computers

Of course, one is familiar enough with the "reasoning" of materialists that one does not expect the above to make the slightest dent in their determination to believe the irrational.

Ilíon said...

From the essay: "From this claim, and the assumption that his thought experiment is a generalized description of any program that exhibits some degree of intelligence, Searle makes a third and substantially stronger claim: that no computer program could account for mental states—and thus that no machine which consists of a program running on a computer can think. But the Chinese Room scenario is not such a generalized description, and so the jump to this third claim relies on a basic logical error, namely that demonstrating that one particular program falsely appears to have mental content does not demonstrate the same for all potential programs."

Weellll, Mr Schulman is wrong (perhaps his problem is that he's trying to be "nice") ... as he ought to understand had he been paying attention to what he himself had said in the "Manipulating Symbols" section.