Claudia Obeng
Intro to Philosophy
Professor Wood
Paper #2
03/09/15
John Searle: The Chinese Room Argument
Is it possible for machines to think? How does the mind work? Are machines capable of working in the same manner as a mind, with the help of a program? These are questions that led to The Chinese Room Argument also known as the Thought Experiment conducted by John Searle. Two views were presented in this argument. One view suggests that it is possible for machines to think and understand and the other argues that machines or computers are incapable of doing so; rather they can just simulate what they see. My view is that computers are incapable of thinking or being conscious. There is no way for a computer to behave like a human. I will begin my paper by explaining what The Chinese Argument is, and what event occurred in the experiment. I will outline the claims and objections presented in the argument, present my view or opinion, and evaluate the argument.
The Chinese Room Argument was a thought experiment conducted by John Searle to determine whether computers could think. He wanted to answer the question of whether brains cause mind. In his argument Searle compares "Strong Artificial Intelligence (AI)" against "Weak AI." According to Weak AI, computers "enable us to formulate and test hypothesis in a more rigorous and precise fashion, but according to Strong AI, the computer is not merely a tool but in the study of the min; rather, the appropriately programmed computer really is a mind, the sense that computers given the right programs can be literally said to understand and have other cognitive states.(Perry, 2013, p. 298)" Basically what all that means is that weak artificial intelligence believes that machines are only able to imitate real human behavior, and strong AI believes if programs are written properly and accurately, machines become or behave like a mind and are able to understand and or have consciousness.
To test the hypothesis of whether it is possible for a computer to have a mind, the following thought experiment was performed. Imagine being locked alone in a room. The room has two slots, one for incoming messages and the other for outgoing messages. In the room you have books and other resources available to use. While in the room you are given Chinese characters through the inbox, even though you do not understand any Chinese. A second set of Chinese characters are given to you, but this time they come with a set of rules that match the first and second characters. The rules given to you are in English. Lastly a third set of Chinese characters are given to you with instructions in English which match with the two sets of characters given to you in the beginning. The characters given to you are a story, followed by questions. Your job is to answer these questions in Chinese with the help of the given instructions written in English. To answer these questions, you would have to manipulate the symbols.
Even though you do not speak or understand Chinese, you are able to manipulate the symbols to answer the questions like a person who speaks Chinese fluently and understands Chinese. With this experiment, Searle seeks to prove that a person can simulate and give answers to questions they do not understand at all. Based on the results of the experiment, Searle concludes that it\'s impossible for a machine to think or have a mental state. Manipulating a machine does not mean it is capable of understanding or having human capabilities.
I definitely agree with Searle on this view. I believe Searle is right about the impossibility of a thinking machine. Glancing over the argument the first time, it was pretty easy to be convinced about the possibility of a thinking machine, but when you take a closer look at the argument and analyze it, you realized there is no way something like that is possible. If the person in the room was unable to understand the characters given to him then a machine has no way of knowing as well. This proves Strong AI to be is false. Computers are programmed in such a way that they are familiar with certain characters. When they recognize those characters, they know what