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But the person inside the room knows nothing of this.He is instantiating a computer program -- that is, he is performing purely formal manipulations of uninterpreted patterns; the program is all syntax and has no semantics.Some supporters of strong AI expect that it will some day be possible to represent the brain using formal mathematical constructs [Fischler 1987].
So far as the person in the room is concerned, the doodles are meaningless.It is tempting for spiritually-inclined people to conclude that the weak AI vs.strong AI debate is about mind-body duality, or the existence of a soul, and whether a phenomenon separate from the body is necessary for intelligence.If weak AI can ever be proven, it might lead to a refutation of Church's thesis (as implied in [Bringsjord 1997]). Searle, a prominent and respected scholar in the AI community, offered the "Chinese room parable" [Searle 1980].This parable, summarized by [Baumgartner 1995], is as follows: He imagines himself locked in a room, in which there are various slips of paper with doodles on them, a slot through which people can pass slips of paper to him and through which he can pass them out; and a book of rules telling him how to respond to the doodles, which are identified by their shape.Riker, appointed to present the researcher's case, argues that because Data is composed of circuits and wires, he is nothing more than a sophisticated computing machine.(His case seems almost rock-solid when he forcibly switches Data off during the trial.) Later, Data's defense provides testimony to show that because Data has had many human-like experiences, including even an intimate relationship with another crew member, he must therefore be ruled a sentient life form, with all the rights of a human.In this parable, Searle demonstrates that although the system may appear intelligent, it in fact is just following orders, without intent or knowledge of what it is accomplishing.Searle's argument has been influential in the AI community and is referenced in much of the literature.Still, there are those who cling desperately to the strong AI dream.Searle says in [Baumgartner 1995] that these people have built their professional lives on the assumption that strong Artificial Intelligence is true. Then you do not refute it; you do not convince its adherents just by presenting an argument.