[ExI] Meaningless Symbols.

Gordon Swobe gts_2000 at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 13 20:05:59 UTC 2010

By the way I assume by "chinese speaker" in your example below that you refer to a native Chinese speaker, or to some person/system who understands Chinese as people actually understand it, i.e.,  by means other than running syntactic programs in their heads. 


--- On Wed, 1/13/10, Gordon Swobe <gts_2000 at yahoo.com> wrote:

> From: Gordon Swobe <gts_2000 at yahoo.com>
> Subject: Re: [ExI] Meaningless Symbols.
> To: "ExI chat list" <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>
> Date: Wednesday, January 13, 2010, 2:50 PM
> --- 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.
> -gts


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