Re: No More Searle Please

From: micah glasser (
Date: Thu Jan 19 2006 - 13:06:28 MST

The problem with Searle' critique is quite simple - he begins with the false
assumption that a machine can pass a Turing test with some sort of
functionalist language table. No machine has ever been abler to genuinely
answer questions in a fashion that would satisfy the Turing test using such
methods. Yet Searle pretends that a machine can already pass a Turing test
using such "card shuffling" techniques and then proceeds to show that the
Turing test can't possibly be a genuine indicator of human level
intelligence because it is being accomplished through such a trivial
technique. This whole line of thinking is just wrong and is philosophically
indefensible. It may turn out that brains are not UTMs (Jeff Hawkins et al)
but it still stands that if a UTM can pass a genuine Turing test then it is
necessarily as intelligent as a human since the intelligence of humans are
measured through their linguistic capacity. If you presented me with 20
different interlocutors I could, after interviewing them all, have a very
good idea of which were the most intelligent through how well they were able
to formulate responses to my questions. This ability is not trivial - it IS
human intelligence. The fact that people are still talking about Searle and
his charlatan claims is just evidence of how philosophically illiterate the
world has become.

One more thing. In response to Daniel, If you believe that there can be
evidence for consciousness I would love to know what that would be. Until I
have been made aware of such a test I hold that the very idea is ridiculous

On 1/19/06, Richard Loosemore <> wrote:
> Daniel,
> In spite of your comments (below), I stand by what I said. I was trying
> to kill the Searle argument because there is a very, very simple reason
> why Searle's idea was ridiculous, but unfortunately all the other
> discussion about related issues, which occurred in abundance in the
> original BBS replies and in the years since then, has given the
> misleading impression that the original argument had some merit.
> I will try to explain why I say this, and address the points you make.
> First, it is difficult to argue about what *exactly* Searle was claiming
> in his original paper, because in an important sense there was no such
> thing as "exactly what he said" -- he used vague language and subtle
> innuendos at certain crucial points of the argument, so if you try to
> pin down the fine print you find that it all starts to get very slippery.
> As example I will cite the way you phrase his claim. You say:
> "He claims ... that no additional understanding is created anywhere, in
> the room or in the man, and so Strong AI is false."
> How exactly does Searle arrive at this conclusion? In Step 1 he argues
> that the English speaking person does not "understand" Chinese. If we
> are reasonable, we must agree with him. In Step 2 he says that this is
> like a computer implementing a program (since the English speaker is
> merely implementing a computer program). In Step 3 he goes on to
> conclude that THEREFORE when we look at a computer running a Chinese
> understanding program, we have no right to say that the computer
> "understands" or is "conscious of" what it is doing, any more than we
> would claim that the English person in his example understands Chinese.
> My beef, of course, was with Step 2. The system of mind-on-top-of-mind
> is most definitely NOT the same as a system of mind-on-top-of-computer.
> He is only able to pull his conclusion out of the hat by pointing to
> the understanding system that is implementing the Chinese programme
> (namely the English speaking person), and asking whether *that*
> understanding system knows Chinese. He appeals to our intuitions. If
> he had proposed that the Chinese program be implemented on top of some
> other substrate, like a tinkertoy computer (or any of the other
> gloriously elaborate substrates that people have discussed over the
> years) he could not have persuaded our intuition to agree with him. If
> he had used *anything* else except an intelligence at that lower level,
> he would not have been able to harness our intuition pump and get us to
> agree with him that the "substrate itself" was clearly not understanding
> Chinese.
> But by doing this he implicitly argued that the Strong AI people were
> claiming that in his weird mind-on-mind case the understanding would
> bleed through from the top level system to the substrate system. He
> skips this step in his argument. (Of course! He doesn't want us to
> notice that he slipped it in!). If he had inserted a Step 2(a): "The
> Strong AI claim is that when you implement an AI program on top of a
> dumb substrate like a computer it is exactly equivalent to implementing
> the same AI program on top of a substrate that happens to have its own
> intelligence," the Strong AI people would have jumped up and down and
> cried Foul!, flatly refusing to accept that this was their claim. They
> would say: we have never argued that intelligence bleeds through from
> one level to another when you implement an intelligent system on top of
> another intelligent system, so your argument breaks down at Step 2 and
> Step 2(a): the English speaking person inside the room is NOT analogous
> to a computer, so nothing can be deduced about the Strong AI argument.
> So when you say: "Searle never claims that since 'understanding doesn't
> bleed through,' Strong AI is false." I am afraid I have to disagree
> completely. It is implicit, but he relies on that implicit claim.
> And while you correctly point out that the "Systems Argument" is a good
> characterisation of what the AI people do believe, I say that this is
> mere background, and is not the correct and immediate response to
> Searle's thought experiment, because Searle had already undermined his
> argument when he invented a freak system, and then put false words into
> the mouths of Strong AI proponents. My point is that the argument was
> dead at that point: we do not need to go on and say what Strong AI
> people do believe, in order to address his argument.
> In fact, everyone played into his hands by going off on all these other
> speculations about other weird cases. What is frustrating is that the
> original replies should ALL have started out with the above argument as
> a preface, then, after declaring the Chinese Room argument to be invalid
> and completely dead, they should have proceeded to raise all those
> interesting and speculative ideas about what Strong AI would say about
> various cases of different AI implementations. Instead, Searle and his
> camp argued the toss about all those other ideas as if each one were a
> failed attempt to demolish his thought experiment.
> Finally, Searle's response to the mind-on-mind argument was grossly
> inadequate. Just more of the same trick that he had already tried to
> pull off. When he tries to argue that Strong AI makes this or that
> claim about what a Turing machine "understands," he is simply trying to
> generalise the existing Strong AI claims into new territory (the
> territory of his freak system) and then quickly say how the Strong AI
> people would extend their old turing-machine language into this new
> case. And since he again puts a false claim onto their mouths, he is
> simply repeating the previous invalid argument.
> The concept of a Turing machine has not, to my knowledge, been
> adequately extended to say anything valid about the situation of one
> Turing machine implemented at an extreme high level on top of another
> Turing machine. In fact, I am not sure it could be extended, even in
> principle. For example: if I get a regular computer running an
> extremely complex piece of software that does many things, but also
> implements a Turing machine task at a very high level, which latter is
> then used to run some other software, there is nothing whatsoever in the
> theory of Turing machines that says that the pieces of software running
> at the highest level and at the lowest level have to relate to one
> another: in an important sense they can be completely independent.
> There are no constraints whatsoever between them.
> The lower level software might be managing several autonomous space
> probes zipping about the solar system and interacting with one another
> occasionally in such a way as to implement a distributed Turing machine,
> while this Turing machine itself may be running a painting program. But
> there is no earthly reason why "Turing machine equivalence" arguments
> could be used to say that the spacecraft system is "really" the same as
> a painting program, or has all the functions of a painting program.
> This is, as I say, a freak case that was never within the scope of the
> original claims: the original claims have to be extended to deal with
> the freak case, and Searle disingenuous extension is not the one that
> Strong AI proponents would have made.
> Richard Loosemore.
> Daniel Radetsky wrote:
> > On Wed, 18 Jan 2006 08:09:43 -0500
> > Richard Loosemore <> wrote:
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > If you don't want to talk about Searle, don't talk about Searle, but
> don't give
> > a set of reasons why not to talk about Searle, and expect me not to
> respond.
> >
> >
> >>He proposed a computational system implemented on top of another
> >>computational system (Chinese understander implemented on top of English
> >>understander). This is a mind-on-top-of-mind case that has no relevance
> >>whatsoever to either (a) human minds, or (b) an AI implemented on a
> >>computer.
> >
> >
> > This is a version of a response made a long time ago by Jerry Fodor.
> Searle
> > responded, and very adequately I think. Since the mind-on-top-of-mind is
> > something which is implementing a Turing machine, it is the same thing
> > computation-wise as anything else implementing a Turing machine. So it
> is
> > completely relevant to whether or not a computer (something implementing
> a
> > Turing Machine) can be conscious.
> >
> > I'll be blunt: if you want to challenge Searle, use the Systems Reply.
> It's the
> > only reply that actually works, since it explicitly disagrees with
> Searle's
> > fundamental premise (consciousness is a causal, not a formal, process).
> You
> > went on to make something like the Systems Reply in the rest of your
> post, but
> > against a straw man. Searle never claims that since 'understanding
> doesn't bleed
> > through,' Strong AI is false. He claims (in the original article; I
> haven't read
> > everything on this subject) that no additional understanding is created
> > anywhere, in the room or in the man, and so Strong AI is false. That is,
> the
> > fact that 'understanding doesn't bleed through' is only a piece of the
> puzzle.
> >
> > Daniel
> >
> >

I swear upon the alter of God, eternal hostility to every form of tyranny
over the mind of man. - Thomas Jefferson

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