John R. Searle's Minds, Brains And Programs

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In his essay “Minds, Brains, and Programs”, John R. Searle argues that a computer is incapable of thinking, and that it can only be used as a tool to aid human beings or can simulate human thinking, which he refers to as the theory of weak AI (artificial intelligence). He opposes the theory of strong AI, which states that the computer is a mind and can function similarly to a human brain – that it can reason, understand, and be in different cognitive states. Searle does not believe a computer can think because human beings have programmed all the functions it is able to perform, and that computers can only compute (transform) the information it is given (351ab¶1). Searle clarifies the meaning of understanding as he uses it by saying that an …show more content…

He, who cannot read or understand Chinese, is then given a second set of sheets written in Chinese, called a “story”, and a set of rules written in English (the “program”). The rules explain how he can compare the second set of Chinese symbols to the first set, thereby allowing him to identify symbols by their shapes. A third set of Chinese writing (the “questions”), along with rules in English, is delivered to him. The rules lay out how Searle can provide the correct Chinese symbols needed to answer these questions through a comparison of the “script” and the “story”. He explains that he could become so proficient at computing using this method that his answers would seem like they were written by a fluent Chinese speaker, even though he cannot read, write, or speak a word of Chinese (352b-353a¶5). He uses this example to show that Schank’s computer does not understand the way a human being can because it is being fed information and is computing it without learning or getting any meaning out of it. Searle delves into this further in order to respond to claims made in support of strong

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