On Sat, Feb 4, 2012  Craig Weinberg <whatsons...@gmail.com> wrote:

>> I hope you're not talking about Searle's Chinese room, the stupidest
>> thought experiment in history.
> > I don't see what is stupid about that thought experiment.

And that tells us a great deal about you.

> > Please explain exactly what you mean.

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 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

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 3
pounds of gray goo in our head, and yet we know that it does. It's time to
just face the fact that consciousness is what matter does when it is
organized in certain complex ways.

> > I understand why an audioanimatronic pirate at Disneyland feels nothing.

That is incorrect, you don't understand. I agree it probably feels nothing
but unlike you I can logically explain exactly why I have that opinion and
I don't need semantic batteries or flux capacitors or dilithhium crystals
or any other new age bilge to do so.

> > No. Computers have never learned anything.

I could give examples dating back to the 1950's that computers can indeed
learn but there would be no point in me doing  so, you would say it didn't
"really" learn it "just" behaved like it learned, and Einstein wasn't
"really" smart he "just" behaved like he was smart, and the guy who filed a
complaint with the police that somebody stole his cocaine was not "really"
stupid he "just" behaved stupidly.

> >>  Machines are made of atoms just like you and me.
> > And atoms are unconscious, are they not?

Atoms don't behave intelligently so my very very strong hunch is that they
are not conscious, but there is no way I can know for certain. On the other
hand you are even more posative than I about this matter and as  always
happens whenever somebody is absolutely positively 100% certain about
anything they can almost never produce any logical reason for their belief.
There seems to be a inverse relationship, the stronger the belief the
weaker the evidence.

>>  One binary logic operation is pretty straightforward but 20,000
>> trillion of them every second is not, *and that's what today's
>> supercomputers can do, and they are doubling in power every 18 months.
> > You could stop the program at any given point and understand every
>> thread of every process.
Yes, you can understand ANY thread but you cannot understand EVERY thread.
And that 20,000 trillion a second figure that I used was really a big
understatement, it's the number of floating point operations (FLOPS) not
the far simpler binary operations. A typical man on the street might take
the better part of one minute to do one flop with pencil and paper, and
today's  supercomputers can do 20,000 million million a second and they
double in power every 18 months.

> >They come out of comas and communicate with other human beings

You think the noises coming out of ex-coma patient's mouths give us
profound insight into their inner life, but noises produced by Siri tell us
absolutely nothing, why the difference? Because Siri is not squishy and
does not smell bad. I don't think your philosophy is one bit more
sophisticated than that.

  John K Clark

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