[ExI] Meaningless Symbols.

John Clark jonkc at bellsouth.net
Thu Jan 14 18:07:21 UTC 2010

On Jan 13, 2010, Gordon Swobe wrote:

> 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. 

The trouble with all your thought experiments is that you come up with more and more bizarre situations and just say there is (or is not) understanding there, and then you challenge us to explain it; but you have no way of knowing what the little man understands either before or after he swallowed a book larger than the observable universe, all you can know is if he does (or does not) act intelligently. When Einstein did thought experiments everything followed logically, he didn't announce that the man on the train platform saw this and that unless it was obvious that is exactly what he would see, you are announcing things that a far from obvious and sometimes announcing the very thing you are trying to prove. 

> 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).

Things may not be quite as clear cut as your 7th grade English teacher thought. I doubt if things in the quantum realm are much concerned with your teacher's opinion, and that's all semantics is, an opinion. If the Many Worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics is correct then in one of those worlds that has a different syntax it would be the opinion of the inhabitants that this exact same post is the operating instructions for a new type of aquarium air pump.

And the syntax of your genome is very clear and specific, but tell me about its semantics.

 John K Clark  

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