Tuesday, 27 May 2008

The Chinese Room

Searle's Chinese Room argument is an attempt to show that a mind cannot be found inside a machine.

Searle asks his audience to imagine that many years from now, people have constructed a computer that behaves as if it understands Chinese. The computer takes Chinese characters as input and, following a program, produces other Chinese characters, which it presents as output. Suppose that this computer performs this task so convincingly that it easily passes the Turing test. In other words, it convinces a human Chinese speaker that the program is itself a human Chinese speaker. All the questions the human asks are responded to appropriately, such that the Chinese speaker is convinced that he or she is talking to another Chinese-speaking human. The conclusion that proponents of artificial intelligence would like to draw is that the computer understands Chinese, just as the person does.

Extract from Wikipedia

My response to this rests with the fact that this is a gedanken or "thought experiment". If you could do this "for real" then room "understands Chinese" just as much as any speaker, native or not. If this experiment were done today, then the lag would be a clue. The other issue is where is the "intellgence"? Well, it is the room, that is the person or computer programme inside actually answering the questions. The translation is a red herring!

Friday, 16 May 2008


Originally uploaded by LoopZilla.
I was on a 25 bus in the City of London, and seemed to me that "gonzogeography" was a term in search of some meaning, much like "psychogeography". I was then mindful of "The Meaning of Liff", where the names on signposts are given a use, to stop them loafing around doing very little.

The talk given by Merlin Coverley (the author) at Housmans Booksellers this week was interesting, and it left me wanting more. What was "psychogeography" as distinct from geography (as understood today)? I guess I had to catch up with some reading and the events of 1968 and the "Situationists International".

But there seemed to be plenty of research material on the 25 bus, a bendy bus that snakes from Oxford Circus to the wilds of Ilford, Essex.

Walking as an art form. That sounded the business. What could we learn from taking steps? Get in the back of the bendy bus, and you realise that it bends left and right, up and down. The ride is raucous. Some call it the free bus, since you have to swipe an Oystercard or a ticket before you board. Inspectors descend like a host of locusts, but you might just be able to swipe before they get to you... ooops I have just had my wallet stolen!

Friday, 9 May 2008

Distributed Research

Can we distribute research and innovation? What does Wikipedia do, in terms of stimulating a group of people who have never met (in most cases) to work on an article as part of an online encyclopedia?

Does the semantic web (promise) bring a new set of links? Or less? What can the Internet, the web and computers do for us?

The most famous distributed research project is the Earth, a planet that was set to decide on the question. A previous project had found that the answer was 42, but that was no enough! Somehow we had to find the question that matched the answer. The program ran for millions of years, when, in Rickmansworth, the question had been divined, only to me lost when the Earth was destroyed to make way for a bypass.

We are lost in time and space and meaning. It is only the presence of mind that keeps us locked into the matrix....