[ExI] Meaningless Symbols.

Gordon Swobe gts_2000 at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 13 19:50:13 UTC 2010

--- On Wed, 1/13/10, Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com> wrote:

> Suppose neurons are smart enough to understand their
> individual job, such as that they have to fire when they see a 
> certain concentration of neurotransmitter, but not smart enough to 
> understand the big picture. These neurons are in a Chinese speaker's 
> head, and the rest of the cells in his body are no smarter than the 
> neurons. Show me who or what understands Chinese.

In that case the system understands Chinese. Evidently it learned it somewhere, and as far I know only human systems can do it. 

The question *here* concerns whether people or computers can learn or understand Chinese from following rules of syntax only, because formal programs have only rules of syntax.

Again I ask you: 

The Englishman stands naked in a field. He represents the entire system. He and his neurons (trillions upon trillions upon trillions of them if you like) process Chinese symbols according to the *syntactic rules specified in a program* which he and his neurons have memorized. Show me who or what understands the meanings of the symbols. 

If you cannot then you agree with your 7th grade English teacher who knew that following the rules of grammar (syntax) is not the same as understanding the meanings of the words (semantics). 

That's why your teacher tested your grammar and vocabulary skills on different days of the week. *They're different subjects*. You used to know this.



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