Chinese Room Step 3: Pumping Out Electricity

Mar 25, 2015

We're still analyzing John Searle's Chinese Room thought experiment, and now we're ready to cut straight to the explanation. The answer is that the brain is not just digital, but also analog. The brain's inputs and outputs are electrical currents, after all. That electricity can carry symbolic information, like a digital signal, but in addition to whatever signal it carries, the electricity is also real analog electricity. And it can make muscles move.

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Chinese Room Step 2: Nobody is Outside!

Mar 18, 2015

The Chinese Room thought experiment postulates real-live Chinese people outside the room, but who are those Chinese people? And how do they know Chinese? Just by magical spirit-consciousness? That's no explanation at all.

In fact, the Chinese people outside the room also look like homunculi, just like Searle-in-the-room. And a homunculus argument is a fallacy, of course. So if you're serious about analyzing this thought experiment, you must get rid of all the homunculi. If you're serious about understanding how the mind works - or how a digital computer can never be a real mind - then you must get rid of all the homunculi.

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Chinese Room Step 1: Drop the Homunculus

Mar 11, 2015

Anyone interested in AI or philosophy of mind must wrestle with John Searle's famous Chinese Room thought experiment. Some people say this argument proves that artificial intelligence is simply impossible. I don't think so, but the Chinese Room is indeed very useful to analyze and discuss. Searle makes some good points that a lot of AI fans seem to have missed.

All I want to do today is just point out that "Searle in the room" looks like a homunculus. And that's a fallacy, right? So we need to get rid of that homunculus somehow, or else the Chinese Room isn't really a good model of a real brain. So I'm proposing here a simple method to get rid of the homunculus and clear away that first big cause of confusion.

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China Brain Initiative Sounds Self-Defeating

Mar 4, 2015

At last China might be getting serious about AI development, according to this item in the South China Morning Post. Baidu's founder Robin Li Yanhong is calling for a state-sponsored "China Brain" initiative to develop all sorts of AI technology, and he wants military support too. If you weren't scared of AI before, you might think again now!

Personally, I wish them the best of luck. But I just wonder if China realizes what it's getting itself into.

Li sounded properly patriotic when he said "Whoever wins artificial intelligence will win the Internet in China and around the world." On this point he is certainly wrong. The only person who will "win" artificial intelligence is the AI itself.

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Why Not Go for a Head-Transplant?

Feb 26, 2015

Sounds like a sadistic joke, right? Something that Alice Cooper might sing about. But here's this Italian neuroscientist who says it's actually possible. So why not go for a head-transplant? Is it really possible? The main obstacle appears to be connecting the neural fibers in the spinal cord.

But even if you can re-connect severed nerves, I think there's another major difficulty that people haven't been talking about very much, and that is: How do you know which nerves to connect to which? You can't just connect them up in an ad-hoc way, because sensory-motor nerves each have their specific functions. Each wire in the head must be connected to the specific corresponding wire in the body, or else you'll get seriously messed up.

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Lots more posts -->

Photo of the Week

Lost cat Tora-chan, Yoga Jan. 11, 2015

Lost cat "Tora-chan" - Yoga, Jan. 11, 2015 (Enlarge) It says Tora-chan has a microchip implanted under her skin by super-intelligent aliens.

Recent Entries:

  1. Chinese Room Step 3: Pumping Out Electricity    (Mar 25, 2015)
  2. Chinese Room Step 2: Nobody is Outside!    (Mar 18, 2015)
  3. Chinese Room Step 1: Drop the Homunculus    (Mar 11, 2015)
  4. China Brain Initiative Sounds Self-Defeating    (Mar 4, 2015)
  5. Why Not Go for a Head-Transplant?    (Feb 26, 2015)
  6. The End of the Paperclip Maximizer    (Feb 17, 2015)
  7. How the Paperclip Maximizer Might Change its Ways    (Feb 9, 2015)
  8. No, the Turing Test is Not Really Bullshit    (Jan 29, 2015)

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