Monday, May 7, 2007

The Chinese Room Argument


"So it was that under Prince Cheng's direction, the beureaucrats created the Sage of Seven Floors. Illiterate peasant farmers were gathered from the entire province. A few were assigned the task of recieving the mail and setting the incoming letters into type. The rest were each given a set of complex instructions with inscrutable purposes for how to organize and rearrange the fragments that were passed to their desks. The characters they manipulated were not printed on paper, but the printers blocks themselves were passed around, as many of their directions involved rearrangement or substitution of these characters. Over the years, some of the workers learned to read a few of the characters, but because each was only given fragments of a message to work on, none ever saw more than a small part of the picture. Yet because of the cleverness of the divisings of the beureaucrats, the Sage produced wise and beautiful answers to all the questions that were sent to it. For as a team of weak men can pull a great stone that could not be pulled by any giant, so the farmers as a group were said to be wiser than any single man."

2 comments:

D said...

This is actually more like Ned Block's Chinese Nation (aka China Brain) argument, rather than John Searle's Chinese Room argument. In the Chinese room, there is only one man carrying out the instructions.
While I believe any of these systems could be capable of performing reasoning and respond in a convincing way so as to pass a Turing test, I don't think this proves that such systems have phenomenal consciousness. They would have to claim to have qualia, but such claims would be false.

Mike said...

Unless qualia are a fundamental property of computation...