Any discussion of the thinking of University of California-Berkeley professor, John R. Searle must include an understanding that a machine has the ability to “think” just because it has been fed the “correct” computer program that he calls “Strong AI” (artificial intelligence). However, he points out that “Strong AI” misses the basic point that any software program is simply a framework that designates the ways in which certain symbols are managed. That manipulation cannot be, under any definition or circumstance, be considered actual thought. Searle uses what has come to be known as the “Chinese Room Argument.” The Chinese Room Argument
The premise of the Chinese room argument is that a person with absolutely no understanding of the Chinese language is placed in a room that has baskets full of Chinese symbols. He is given a book in English that supposedly identifies the symbols and explains that they are entirely identified and related to one another by their shapes. As Searle explains how it works: “Suppose that unknown to you the symbols passed into the room are called ‘questions’ by the people outside the room, and the symbols you pass back out of the room are called ‘answers to the questions’”. (pp. 32). The point he makes is that he may hand out the appropriate and even accurate answers and that those responses may serve to connect with the expectations of those asking the questions. However, it does not indicate that any real understanding has taken place or that any sort of meaning is actually attached to the question and answer process that is taking place. The point is that a person cannot possibly understand Chinese simply on the basis of running a computer program designed for understanding the language itself. It must be remembered that what has taken place is only a manipulation of conventional symbols that they have been designed to act upon. There are a number of factors that establish the parameters...
Bibliography: Searle, John R., “Can computers think?” Minds, Brains, and Science, (The 1984 Reith Lectures), pp. 28-41.
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