Re: Searle's Chinese Room Argument

From: Brooking, Stephen (
Date: Fri Mar 17 2000 - 16:17:09 GMT

On Thu, 16 Mar 2000, HARNAD, Stevan wrote:

> > Brooking:
> > It's my view that the mind is not separate from the brain. The operations
> > that the brain does, are implicit in the neurons and how they are
> > arranged. That is, the algorithms are not implemented in 'software'
> > running on the brain, but are implicit in the 'hardware'. The mind is
> > something that the brain implements.
> Harnad:
> What does that mean?

What I was trying to say was that I don't see that what is going on in our
heads is like a program running on a computer, but the program and the
computer are one and the same. Does that make it any clearer?

> > Brooking:
> > Why is the answer to "Could a machine think?" obviously yes? I would argue
> > that it is no, and I certainly wouldn't say that it is obvious. I agree
> > with Blakemore's point.
> Harnad:
> Because it is not at all obvious that we ourselves are not machines! A
> machine is just a causal system.

I accept that it is not at all obvious that we ourselves are not machines,
but I don't see the progression to the claim that a machine could
obviously think.

> > Brooking:
> > If you produce artificially a machine (although I'm about to argue that it
> > wouldn't be a machine) that was sufficiently like (exactly the same?) as
> > humans, then you're not making a machine, you are making a human. Again, I
> > agree with Blakemore's point - if you change the materials, you are not
> > going to get the same effects.
> Harnad:
> First point: What if we ARE machines?

If we are machines, then you're making a human machine, but the point is
that if it is possible to produce a human artificially, and it is done,
then the result is a replication of human life, rather than just an
intelligent machine. It seems to me that if you can make a human-like
machine, then it would not have artificial intelligence but intelligence.
There is a problem here with how we determine what artificial really means
- if we can produce a human artificially, then it could be argued to have
an artificial version of intelligence. But what does it mean to produce
artificially a human-like machine? Presumably by any means other than the
norm for reproduction, but if the machine was sufficiently like a human,
made from the same materials, then is it artificial, or is it that the
life (if it is acceptable to say that it is alive) has been started later
than normal?

> Harnad:
> Second point: HOW does the material matter? (Computationally it doesn't,
> because of implementation-independence.)

It is difficult to argue that the brain would not work if implemented in
silicon. But it is not so for other parts of the body - Chalmers' example
of the digestive system for example, in which he said that if you slowly
replace the parts of the digestive system with metal, a point would be
reached where no food groups will be broken down and no energy extracted.

Steve Brooking

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