[ExI] Semiotics and Computability

Christopher Luebcke cluebcke at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 15 08:13:50 UTC 2010

If my understanding of the CRA is correct (it may not be), it seems to me that Searle is arguing that because one component of the system does not understand the symbols, the system doesn't understand the symbols. This to me is akin to claiming that because my fingers do not understand the words they are currently typing out, neither do I.

If a system is said to understand symbols, it does not follow that all components of the system understand the symbols. My pinky finger, or a particular neuron, or a transistor, or a man in a room following orders about moving squiggly cards around, need not understand symbols for the system they compose a part of to understand symbols. It is the system as whole that is said to understand symbols, not necessarily any of the parts.

As a demonstration of my point, I ask you to simply modify the CBA a bit. You place a Chinese-speaking person in the room, and don't provide him any of the rules. He executes the test perfectly. Surely you don't then draw the conclusion that the room does indeed understand symbols, do you?

(It is also, I think, far from clear that such a system as the CBA could be executed by a finite set of discrete rules.)

As a final note, forgive me for repeatedly saying "understanding symbols", but while imperfect, I think it'll be less prone to misunderstandings due to ambiguity than "intelligence" or "consciousness".

----- Original Message ----
From: Gordon Swobe <gts_2000 at yahoo.com>
To: ExI chat list <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>
Sent: Sun, February 14, 2010 5:54:22 PM
Subject: Re: [ExI] Semiotics and Computability

--- On Sun, 2/14/10, x at extropica.org <x at extropica.org> wrote:

> The logic of the CRA is correct.  But it reasons from
> a flawed premise: That the human organism has this somehow
> ontologically special thing called "consciousness."

It does not matter whether you believe in some "special thing called 'consciousness." Call it what you will, or call it nothing at all. 

It matters only that you understand that the man cannot grok the symbols by virtue of manipulating them according to the rules of syntax specified in the program. 


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