Friday, February 04, 2005

The Chinese virtual room

So I've been asked to give my account of the mind-body problem. Kind of a huge question (quick answer: dualism is wrong, the brain creates the mind, and artificial intelligence is at least theoretically possible), but I started writing something a while back about Searle's "Chinese room" argument, and this seems like a good opportunity to finish it.

Many years ago, the philosopher John Searle made a much-discussed argument about what a mind really is, based on the idea of the "Chinese room":
Imagine a native English speaker who knows no Chinese locked in a room full of boxes of Chinese symbols (a data base) together with a book of instructions for manipulating the symbols (the program). Imagine that people outside the room send in other Chinese symbols which, unknown to the person in the room, are questions in Chinese (the input). And imagine that by following the instructions in the program the man in the room is able to pass out Chinese symbols which are correct answers to the questions (the output). The program enables the person in the room to pass the Turing Test for understanding Chinese but he does not understand a word of Chinese.
The argument was intended to refute computer pioneer Alan Turing's conception of understanding, which was that if a computer could carry on a conversation with a human being such that no one could tell it was a computer, the computer really would understand language and should be considered intelligent. Searle replied that the person in the Chinese room does not understand Chinese, so neither would a computer following a similar set of instructions (i.e., a computer program).

I like the Virtual Mind reply, which is related to the Systems Reply. The Systems Reply is that even though the person in the Chinese room doesn't understand Chinese, the system made up of the room + the person + the rulebook does understand. This is vulnerable to Searle's counterreply, that the person could just memorize the rulebook, yet still wouldn't understand Chinese.

The key to understanding why Searle is wrong there lies in the idea of virtual machines. This is an idea familiar to most computer users: if you have a Mac but want to run Windows-only programs, you run a Windows "emulator" that creates a virtual Windows machine on top of your Mac. Even though the virtual Windows machine is contained within the Mac, it still has states that the Mac does not have. For example, the virtual Windows machine could crash, even though the Mac software underneath is still running fine. Similarly, the "virtual Chinese-speaking mind" that the English speaker implements by memorizing the rulebook can understand Chinese even though the English speaker underneath cannot understand Chinese. (Similarly, the virtual Chinese mind probably doesn't understand English, even though the English mind underneath does.)

An afterthought: a friend of mine recently pointed out that the "Chinese room" is not only wrong, it's also kind of racist and offensive: namely, the selection of Chinese as a language so alien and bizarre that it's the perfect intuition pump for seeing a lack of "understanding." Especially the characterization of Chinese characters as "squiggle squiggle" and "squoggle squoggle." It's part of the whole Orientalist thing, the Asian as the permanent, unassimilably exotic Other. (Related to the all-too-common exchange: "Where are you from?" "New York." "No, where are you really from?" as if a Chinese-American could not be a true New Yorker.) Also especially because the "Chinese room" argument is descended from the "Chinese nation" or "Chinese gym" argument (i.e., if everyone in China made phone calls in a pattern that mimicked the neural state of a human being in pain, would there be a conscious mind created that was in pain?) - which summons up images of robotic, overcrowded hordes of "Chinamen." (Yellow peril, anyone?)

(Or maybe I'm just being paranoid...)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're right on that Searle's distinction loses any meaning as the complexity of the situation increases. A person who memorizes a very long set of instructions for mapping input to output in effect has "learned" the map. No, stronger-- HAS learned the map. It's identical. Searle's English speaker would eventually even deduce meta-rules about the structure of the map, like a waitress at a cafe who knows that a customer reeking of alcohol wants his coffee black.  

Posted by gaw3

2/05/2005 07:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Searle would say the example could work for a native Chinese speaker who knows no English. He just wanted two languages that are different enough that someone who speaks one and doesn't know of the other one at all will not even necessarily have to think of it as a language at all, since it doensn't even look like the one language this person has seen.

The reason he selected China for the Chinese nation/Chinese army example is because it's got so many people, a completely independent reason from why he chose Chinese for the language example. Neither has anything to do with the culture being permanently exotic. If someone wants to summon up the images you mention, maybe that shows some residual racism on their part, but I don't think those have anything to do with why Searle chose China and Chinese in the two cases. 

Posted by Jeremy Pierce

3/03/2005 09:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not necessarily accusing Searle of racism - I'm just saying that I find the analogy of the Chinese room/gym/nation to be distasteful because it does in fact play on these racist images. 

Posted by Andrew

3/06/2005 12:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know that I would necessarily accuse Searle of employing racist images. I think, and considering when it was written, he was stating that it is only alien in relation to the western point of view and not bizarre in and of itself.

Also, I have a question, because it's been a while since I did anything with philosophy of mind and A; does the system really "understand" simply because it produces the correct result? Can't something operate without understanding?  

Posted by Anonymous

6/21/2005 09:31:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

On the last comment - well, clearly that is the crux of the matter. Searle thinks the system doesn't understand, and I think it does. One way to look at it is to realize Searle has somewhat understated how incredibly complicated this rulebook has to be. It really has to be complicated enough to completely reproduce the thought patterns of a normal Chinese speaker (because the conversation partner outside the room won't be fooled by mechanical responses!). When you get to that huge level of complexity, you really are approaching something like the human brain, and the intuition pump of "he's just mindlessly following the rulebook" doesn't work so well anymore.

Here's another example: Imagine that instead of neurons firing in your brain through neurotransmitters and all that, you had a tiny little demon who ran around so that every time a neuron fired, he would go there and excite the neuron's postsynaptic partner. This thought experiment is exactly analogous to the Chinese room. Clearly, the demon in your brain has no idea what you're thinking of, and can't be said to "understand" the conversations you have. Yet, your brain is still firing normally, so you think just as normally as you always do - the "system" understands.

7/21/2005 10:15:00 PM  
Blogger driftwood said...

I think that the rulebook has to be more complex even than that. Isn’t Searle’s rulebook static? That is, doesn’t it have a rule for every possible question that could be asked in every possible conversation that could be had? Otherwise you would need to add memory and thinking (information processing anyway) about the current situation which basically sounds like you are talking about a mind. To avoid this, the rulebook would have to be vastly larger than whatever a single human brain has.

When you think of the Room as something small and simple, the thought experiment seems powerful. But I cannot imagine this rulebook in the slightest, so the experiment leaves me cold.

8/17/2005 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Yes, learning and memory would indeed have to be implemented by the rulebook... But I don't suppose this is a huge problem for the Chinese room, as Searle invented it to rebuke artificial intelligence - and AI computers surely have stores of memory. It would be a conceptually simple modification to add a (huge) artist's easel into the room, where the book would instruct the man in the room to scribble Chinese symbols (or whatever) on the easel to "remember" things, and the book would have rules for interpreting the symbols on the easel.

You are perfectly correct that the more realistic the Chinese room becomes, the less plausible the "the system doesn't understand" reading becomes. This is the problem with Searle's argument.

8/18/2005 02:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Searle's argument is decisive against the metaphysical functionalism thesis, if you don't think to hard about what is functionally necessary for 'consciousness.' I think that if all of the necessary functional "steps" (whatever those are) were mimicked by the Chinese room, then you actually would get consciousness.

Calling the thought experiment racist is pretty lame...there are too many other cases of actual racism out there for anyone to be complaining about Searle's esoteric thought experiment.

2/14/2006 07:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The brain is a system.. you answering someones questions about what is going on is only that, a system. An AI with a program that sounds completely human and can say things wihout you thinking it was a machine is intelligence. It is not natural intelligence but artificial ofcourse. There is nothing more to your brain but a program that can indeed think. I don't think the chinese room makes much sense. The person would indeed not understand any of what he was doing.. but he would be doing the thinking for the system.

7/08/2006 12:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whether you're looking for basic or advanced information on computer, you've come to the right place. We've done a lot of research and have it all here for you.

11/11/2006 01:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both types of Herpes virus live in neural ganglia close to the site of infection. For Cold Sores provides the virus dormant in the area around the TMJ nerves, the genital herpes virus lays dormant in the lumbar sacral area. When the virus is activated one of the symptoms is shooting pain and tenderness in the nerve where the virus was live.
Acyclovir herpes treatment drug is used to treat herpes infections of the skin, mouth, mucous membranes, genital herpes, herpes zoster (shingles), and varicella in some individuals. This drug does not cure herpes, but relieves pain and can make faster infection clear.
Famvir (Famciclovir) herpes treatment medication is used for the treatment of herpes zoster (shingles) and genital herpes. It does not cure herpes infections, but it reduces the pain and itching, helps to heal wounds, and prevents the formation of new ones. This drug is sometimes prescribed for other uses; Offices You can address your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
Rebetol herpes treatment drug is an antiviral drug. Drug rebetol should be used in combination with interferon alfa, a product (for example, Peg-Intron and Intron A) for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. Rebetol can also be used for purposes other than those listed in this guide.Rebetol is not effective only when used for the treatment of hepatitis C. Rebetol should be used in combination with interferon alfa, a product (for example, Peg-Intron and Intron A) for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. This drug may cause birth defects or death of an unborn child.
Valtrex herpes medication is an antiviral agent used to treat shingles (herpes zoster) or genital herpes. This drug can also be used for cold sores herpes simplex. Valtrex possible side effects: Nausea, vomiting, headache, loss of appetite, weakness, stomach pain or dizziness may occur the first few days as your body adjusts to the drug.
Zovirax herpes drug is manufactured in several types: cream (tubes) and pills. Zovirax pills are 200 mg, 400 mg and 800 mg. Zovirax cream is usually 5% in 15 gms tubes. Zovirax is used to treat herpes infections of the skin, lips and
genitals; The herpes zoster (shingles); And chickenpox. It does not
cure herpes infections, but it reduces the pain and itching and
promotes healing.

3/30/2008 11:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Play free game kanser youtube video directory oyun adult porno sex shop image hosting
japan auto store ara utube ytube video share online games adult

Kanser -
Akciğer Kanseri -
Rahim Kanseri -
Lenf Kanseri -
Mide Kanseri -
Yumurtalık Kanseri -

Play game -
Play mario -
sim taxi -
Play game -
Adult games -
Play game -
Play game -
Youtube video

Play action games -
Play arcade games -
Play casino games -
Play misc games -
Play puzzle games -
Play game -
Play shooting games -
Play sport games -

About everything -
you tube video -
Hediye -
Play free game kanser youtube video directory oyun adult porno sex shop image hosting
japan auto store ara mario games erotik fantazi fantezi iç giyim utube ytube tube
video share online games adult
Porn tube

Japan autos -
Alışveriş -
Sex shop -
Image hosting -
Image hosting -
Porn Video -
Porno Video -
Play free game kanser youtube video directory oyun adult porno sex shop image hosting
japan auto store ara mario games erotik fantazi fantezi iç giyim utube ytube
video share online games adult tube
Porn tube
Porn Video -
Youtube Video -
Sex Shop -
Sex Shop, Kozmetik -
erotik iç giyim -
Sex Shop -
Video Hosting -
Porn Video -
Hediye -
porno -
Directory -

Play free game kanser youtube video directory oyun adult porno sex shop image hosting
japan auto store ara mario games erotik fantazi fantezi iç giyim utube ytube
video share online games adult tube

5/14/2008 10:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Catch the wow gold star that holds your gold in wow destiny,cheap wow gold the one that forever maplestory money twinkles within your heart. Take advantage of precious opportunities while they still sparkle before you. Always believe that your buy maplestory mesos ultimate goal is attainable cheap mesos as long as you commit yourself to it.maple money Though barriers may sometimes stand in the way of your dreams, remember that your destiny is hiding behind gold kaufen Accept the fact that not everyone is going to approve of the choices Maple Story Accounts you've made. Have faith in your gold farmen Catch the star that maple story money twinkles in your heart and it will lead you to your destiny's path. Follow that pathway and uncover the sweet sunrises that await you. Take pride in your accomplishments, as they are stepping stones to your dreams. Understand that you may make mistakes, powerlevelbut don't let them discourage mesos Value your capabilities and talents for they are what make you truly unique. The greatest gifts in life are not purchased, but acquired through hard work and determination.maplestory mesos Find the star that twinkles in your heart?for you alone maplestory powerleveling are capable of making your brightest dreams come true. Give your hopes everything you've got and you will catch the star that holds your destiny.

2/10/2009 01:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Viagra Online said...

But only we can to change our life

12/08/2009 06:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty interesting site you've got here. Thanks for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to them. I would like to read more soon.

1/15/2010 12:41:00 PM  
Anonymous generic viagra online said...

Well greetings thanks for the opportunity of post a message , also i would like to know more about Chinese virtual room is very interesting , how can i get more information about it , I want to sign up for more details.

5/03/2010 02:33:00 PM  
Anonymous eco vacation costa rica said...

Hello congratulations you did an excellent work with this blog about I would like to know more about this topic and please when you have any update contac me please to read it. thanks for sharing!!

8/27/2010 04:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The latter, Web 2.0, is not defined as a static architecture. Web 2.0 can be generally characterized as a common set of architecture and design patterns, which can be implemented in multiple contexts. bu sitede en saglam pornolar izlenir.The list of common patterns includes the Mashup, Collaboration-Participation, Software as a Service (SaaS), Semantic Tagging (folksonomy), and Rich User Experience (also known as Rich Internet Application) patterns among others. These are augmented with themes for software architects such as trusting your users and harnessing collective intelligence. Most Web 2.0 architecture patterns rely on Service Oriented Architecture in order to function

11/03/2010 01:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Generic Cialis said...


Nice post, I would like to request you to one more post about that **

Keep it up

12/04/2010 07:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bu sitede en saglam pornolar izlenir.
kesintisiz porno izlemek için bizi tercih edin.
zevk dolu sikiş izlemek için buraya gelin.
izlediğiniz porno filmleri indirin.
aralıksız sohbet etmek için seslichat sitemize bekleriz.
keyifli seslisohbet için gelin.

12/06/2010 09:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Birth Chart Astrology said...

I need a good compliment for each person but I also need a list of one word complements and the teacher is going to check them (sadly enough) examples: nice, smart, funny, brave, outgoing, etc.
Astrology Readings | Free Astrology Reading

12/15/2010 01:09:00 PM  
Anonymous viagra generic online said...

This is very interesting blog post found here.... Thanks very much for the share....

2/22/2011 06:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Invertir en oro said...

I think it's important that we all know a little about this subject so interesting, I think it's part of human culture tell us about such things.
Invertir en petroleo

4/14/2011 04:50:00 PM  
Anonymous gandhi quotes said...

That's a pretty interesting perspective on understanding ~

6/06/2011 10:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Quora Clone said...

Nice post. Great blog. Thanks for sharing. It was very interesting and meaningful.
Web Design|Web Development|

7/13/2011 11:58:00 AM  
Anonymous price per head said...

Thank you for sharing to us.there are many person searching about that now they will find enough resources by your post.I would like to join your blog anyway so please continue sharing with us

5/08/2012 03:08:00 AM  
Anonymous loansmob said...

Paranoid? Definitely, no. The issues with the Oriental country as a great example of lack of tolerance, even a hidden one, is totally out there. Still, can't say it doesn’t work with the Latinos, though. Stereotypes easy up life, and simultaneously make it plain, unfair and averaging. The concept of Chinese room works fine unless the one who has the program uses instructions correctly. This point is somehow left out. Actually, this is how misunderstanding can be clearly shown. You have the same room, the same boxes and the same messages, but a failure of the program. Or, worse, the impact on the program from fraudsters. Here's how you get all messages decoded, but in a completely irrelevant manner. Will the person in the room be able to read and answer? For sure! Will the answers work? They will work in accordance with the intentions of the fraudsters who cracked the code and adapted to their needs. This is how misunderstanding works. Actually, this is how the greater mysteries of vile informational influence works, this is how propaganda works, this is how scam works.
So the more you "learn Chinese". the less loopholes for the wrong-going program you leave.
In order not to let it happen to you, learn here more how to avoid deception and get only legit information from reliable resources

4/03/2015 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger mia taylor said...

Great blog of Chinese virtual room.
Visit my website
Buy online abortion pills USA

10/02/2018 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger alexa said...

thanks for sharing, keep up the good work.
Buy Abortion Pills Online

10/24/2018 05:36:00 AM  
Blogger Puremelda said...

Your instructors or fellow students cannot learn of your acquisition of affordable essay writing service to upkeep your custom writing help credibility; that’s why we guarantee complete confidentiality in all our dealings with our clients.

7/11/2019 07:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anna Wharton said...

An interesting piece to read. Thanks for sharing.
Buy Abortion Pills Online

6/11/2020 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Kathryn Williams said...

Nice one! thank you so much! Thank you for sharing this post. Your blog posts are more interesting and impressive.

Army Public School Sunjuwan
Army Public School YOL Cantt Kangr
Army Public School Nahan
Army Public School Dagshai
Army Public School Jalandhar
Army Public School Mamun Cantt
Army Public School Madhopur
Army Public School Pathankot
Army Public School Tibri
Army Public School Kandrori

3/04/2021 06:19:00 PM  
Blogger Sabrina Jones said...

Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work. If anyone want to abort the unwanted pregnancy without surgical abortion. , then you can Buy Online MTP Kit for treating the same.

4/07/2021 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger States Pharmacy said...

You have written an amazing post with authentic content! Good job!!!

Just visit and order MTP Kit Or Mifegest Kit or Misoprostol or Mifepristone at the comfort of your home for safe abortion at home.


States Pharmacy
Mike Ross

4/15/2021 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger States Pharmacy said...

You have amazing writing skills. How did you get all this content together?? This is an awesome post!!

Buy MTP Kit Online using credit card at the comfort of your home. This product contains Misoprostol and Mifepristone which helps abortion successfully. This process has a success rate of 97% and works excellent till the 12th week.

Just visit and order for a safe and discreet abortion pill kit at home.



States Pharmacy
Mike Ross

4/15/2021 05:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Amy Autumn said...

Ashley Abortion Clinic is an online pharmacy that deals in all types of abortion pills as well as birth control pills and provides them to women worldwide.

Text & whatsapp +1 956 254 0826,
WeChat: Adrianofer2

abortion kit online, buy cytolog online, buy generic ru486, buy mifeprex online, buy mtp kit online cheap, cheap mtp kit online, cytolog tablet for sale amazon, cytolog tablet for sale best buy, cytolog tablet for sale cheap, cytolog tablet for sale walmart,

5/21/2021 06:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Diane Wilmot said...

Ashley Abortion Clinic is an online pharmacy that deals in all types of abortion pills as well as birth control pills and provides them to women worldwide.

Text & whatsapp +1 956 254 0826,
WeChat: Adrianofer2

abortion kit online, buy cytolog online, buy generic ru486, buy mifeprex online, buy mtp kit online cheap, cheap mtp kit online, cytolog tablet for sale amazon, cytolog tablet for sale best buy, cytolog tablet for sale cheap, cytolog tablet for sale walmart,

5/21/2021 07:55:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home