Does a Chinese brain understand Chinese?
Let me state beforehand that I am not expert at all in the Artificial Intelligence field or in neuroscience etc. : I am a physicist working in the nonlinear dynamics field with a side interest in parapsychology and in the matter-consciousness epistemological problems, thus the following considerations on the celebrated J. Searle's "Chinese Room" or "Chinese Gym" argument may be trivial and/or well known to the experts themselves. In any way, repetita iuvant...
Now let me summarize the core of the Searle's argument:
in a Chinese gym (room), people,
just manipulating symbols, pass the Turing Test on "understanding
Chinese language": but if nobody in the Chinese gym understands
Chinese, it is absurd to think that the whole thing (men, tables,
books, walls, etc.) understands Chinese
semantics is above syntax (symbolic manipulation)
a (serial or parallel) computer,
running a program (thus just manipulating symbols), cannot have
semantics, cannot understand Chinese...
I am forced to agree, even if someone with holistic vision could
not; nevertheless I am a little disturbed, just from a logical
point of view. Let me put the Searle's argument in a different
if no constituent of an apparatus
understands Chinese, the whole thing does not understand Chinese
Corollary (trivial if logical):
Here "brain" is the biological one, that collection
of neurons, cells, membranes, microtubules, etc. i.e. the thing
we know (how deeply I do not know). I think (I am not sure!) that
nobody says that a brain can understand something; J. Searle himself
says that semantics is a property of the mind which is a "product"
of the brain: indeed J.S. emphasizes the point that nothing without
the "creative power" of a biological brain can achieve
the semantic level. Let me put again the things in another way:
Let me notice that the inference of the point 3 form the first
two is at least questionable, however let us assume that the above
reasoning is correct. Well, what we have is just a vague, implicit
definition of mind (and a rather circular one). What is really
MIND , which are its constituents, if any, how does it work and
, first of all, how does the brain produce it, what is, from
an operative point of view, that invoked "creative power"
of the brain? To my knowledge, we know almost nothing on this
(may be Indian philosophers in V century BC knew better, at least
they classified and investigated hundreds of levels of mind!).
Thus, merely from a logical point of view, we cannot exclude that
a computer or a robot or something else (someone would add "complex
enough"), no matter if it manipulates or not symbols (that's
irrelevant !!!), could have this mysterious creative power and
thus it could create its own mind which possibly understands Chinese
! Of course I do not really mean that a computer or a golem
do it, I just notice that , at the present state of knowledge,
we cannot assert the contrary and that the symbolic manipulation
argument is irrelevant and finally that the whole "Chinese
room" argument fails indeed to prove what it was supposed
Stars are falling .
Energy roaring . * .
In the gulfs of the Universe * .
. "MetaFaust" . * *
. * *
Bruschi Mario .
Dipartimento di Fisica- Università "La Sapienza" .
Ple A. Moro 2- 00185 Roma - Italy
Phone: +39-6-49914303 . .