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chinese room argument


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  • "The Chinese Room argument, devised by John Searle, is an argument against the possibility of true artificial intelligence. The argument centers on a thought experiment in which someone who knows only English sits alone in a room following English instructions for manipulating strings of Chinese characters, such that to those outside the room it appears as if someone in the room understands Chinese. The argument is intended to show that while suitably programmed computers may appear to converse in natural language, they are not capable of understanding language, even in principle. Searle argues that the thought experiment underscores the fact that computers merely use syntactic rules to manipulate symbol strings, but have no understanding of meaning or semantics."

    - David Cole, The Chinese Room Argument, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 22 Sep 2009.

    October 14, 2009

  • This is an important thought experiment, because it raises numerous questions about the nature of language, knowledge, and intelligence. Given that language is combinatorial, there are more possible utterances than could be stored in the brain, we must have rules to generate language. For a computer to "understand" language, it must have some sort of what to generate new utterances.

    Unfortunately, David Cole doesn't seem to grasp the intricacies of this, and completely misinterprets what Searle's argument actually is.

    October 19, 2009