Re: Tech Review contra Kurzweil and self as software

From: John Clark (
Date: Thu Jul 12 2001 - 11:04:20 MDT

Max More <> Wrote:

> This just appeared in Darwin magazine. There is a form at the end for
> anyone who wants to comment.

I sent this in.

You already know about Searle's room, now I want to tell you about Clark's
Chinese Room. You are a professor of Chinese Literature and are in a room
with me and the great Chinese Philosopher and Poet Laotse. Laotse writes
something in his native language on a paper and hands it to me. I walk 10 feet
and give it to you. You read the paper and are impressed with the wisdom of
the message and the beauty of its language. Now I tell you that I don't know
a word of Chinese, can you find any deep implications from that fact?
I believe Clark's Chinese Room is just as profound as Searle's Chinese Room.
Not very.

All Searle did was come up with was a wildly impractical model (the Chinese
Room) of an intelligence in which a human being happens to play a trivial
part. Consider what's in Searle's model:

1) An incredible book, larger than the observable universe even if the
    writing was microfilm sized.
2) An equally large or larger book of blank paper.
3) A pen, several trillion galaxies of ink, and oh yes I almost forgot,
    your little man.

Searle claims to have proven something profound when he shows that a trivial
part does not have all the properties that the whole system does. In his
example the man could be replaced with a simple machine made with a few
vacuum tubes or even mechanical relays, and it would do a better job.
It's like saying the synaptic transmitter dopamine does not understand how
to solve differential equations, dopamine is a small part of the human brain
thus the human brain does not understand how to solve differential equations.

Yes, it does seem strange that consciousness is somehow hanging around
the room as a whole, even if slowed down by a factor of a billion trillion or so,
but no stranger than the fact that consciousness is hanging around 4 LB's of
gray goo in our head, and yet we know that it does. It's time to just face the
fact that consciousness is a property matter has when it is organized in
certain complex ways.

   John K Clark

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