12.0599 behaviour & everything else

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Thu, 29 Apr 1999 22:57:23 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 599.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1999 21:59:41 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: behaviour & everything else

This morning John Searle, in London for a conference on consciousness at
King's, was provoked into talking once again about his Chinese Room
"parable", as he called it, on Radio 4. He commented that if all you have
is behaviour you don't have much. You do have, however, the very
interesting and difficult question of exactly how the remainder might be
known. He also usefully pointed out that the parable is completely
independent of what you have inside the room -- as long as you are on the
outside and what you get from inside are answers to questions, as the
parable specifies.

I'm aware that Searle's parable has been discussed at length by people who
spend a great deal of time thinking about issues in and around AI and
cognitive science. Let me, however, ask one question inspired by his
comments this morning.

If we have, say, a poetic text and subject it to analysis by machine, is it
not as if we had it in the Chinese Room but also could enter that room at
liberty to interrogate it directly, i.e. read it? Is it not the case that
by comparing what we get from interacting with the intelligence inside and
from reading the answers that we get through the slot in the wall of the
Room, we are wiser than if we only had the direct means, i.e. reading the
text in the conventional sense?



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