Friday, November 14, 2008

About that Chinese Room

1 comment:

Steven Carr said...

We could try running the brain simulation program on a W.O.M.A.N. (World's Only Mechanical Algorithmic Network)

I attach a transcript of the conversation (translated from the original Chinese by Babelfish, which does not understand Chinese, of course)

Me. Hello.

W.O.M.A.N. Hello.

Me. Can you really think?

W.O.M.A.N. Of course I can.

Me. Write me a 2,000 word essay on the impact of Chairman Mao on the Chinese economy in the 60's.

W.O.M.A.N. I see somebody has a university essay to write, and is too lazy to do the research.

Me. I just wanted to see if you really could understand books in Chinese.

W.O.M.A.N. Of course I can. I can look at Chinese symbols and understand what they mean, as easily as you can read English.

Me. But John Searle has proved that a mechanical algorithm cannot really understand, no matter how sophisticated the program is. A W.O.M.A.N. cannot really think, unlike a man.

A W.O.M.A.N. just gets so good at following the instructions their responses are "absolutely indistinguishable from those of Chinese speakers." Just by looking at your answers, nobody can tell you "don't speak a word of Chinese.", but a W.O.M.A.N. cannot think.

W.O.M.A.N. - Surely Searle's thought experiment has limited itself to simple look-up tables, rather than the almost unimaginably complex interactions of neurons and synapses that constitute a real brain and which would be needed to run a program of such sophistication that it could converse in Chinese in a way that made it indistinguishable from a real Chinese person.

Me. I guess that's the sort of thing a W.O.M.A.N would say. They can't think, you know. They just look up answers in a book. All they do is "correlate one set of formal symbols with another set of formal symbols".

W.O.M.A.N. You are an idiot. You are so not getting your essay on Mao.