[ExI] Meaningless Symbols

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Sat Jan 9 23:38:38 UTC 2010

2010/1/10 Gordon Swobe <gts_2000 at yahoo.com>:

> Human operators ascribe meanings to the symbols their computers manipulate. Sometimes humans forget this and pretend that the computers actually understand the meanings.
> It's an understandable mistake; after all it sure *looks* like computers understand the meanings. But then that's what programmers do for a living: we program dumb machines to make them look like they have understanding.
> The question of strong AI is: "How can we make computers actually understand the meanings and not merely appear to understand the meanings?"
> And Searle's answer is: "It won't happen from running formal syntactical programs on hardware as we do today, because computers and their programs cannot and will never get semantics from syntax. We'll need to find another way. And we know we can do it even if we don't yet know the way. After all nature did it in these machines we call humans."

The meaning of the symbols in a computer program is arbitrary,
assigned by the programmer or by the context if the computer is
learning from the environment. But where does the meaning of symbols
in brains come from? A child is told "dog" and shown a picture of a
dog, so "dog" comes to mean dog. It's not as if "dog" has some
God-given, absolute meaning which only brains can access.

Stathis Papaioannou

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