[ExI] Digital Consciousness .

Gordon gts_2000 at yahoo.com
Fri Apr 26 02:35:44 UTC 2013

Most of us here have probably heard of John Searle's famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) Chinese Room Argument (CRA) which attempts to show that computers can never know the meanings of the symbols they manipulate, i.e., that semantics cannot come from manipulation of symbols according to the rules of syntax in a computer program. 

Many of us may not however know that Searle's more interesting work on the subject occurred later in his life. He realized that his CRA had missed an important point: that there is no syntax in the brain in the first place - that syntax is not intrinsic to physics. Syntax is, rather, assigned by the observer. 

As Searle put it in a speech to the American Philosophical Association, "Computational states are not discovered within the physics [of the brain], they are assigned to the physics... This is a different argument from the Chinese Room Argument and I should have seen it ten years ago but I did not. The Chinese Room Argument showed that semantics is not intrinsic to syntax. I am now making the separate and different point that syntax is not intrinsic to physics." 

This idea is disastrous to the theory that the brain is like a digital computer. Even if we could find a way to get semantics from syntax, syntax is not intrinsic to the brain.

If the brain is not intrinsically like a digital computer operating according to syntactical rules of a program then for what reason to do we think we can make a conscious brain on a digital computer? It seems to me that to make a conscious brain, we must do something much closer to what nature has done.

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