The Chinese room argument holds that a program cannot give a computer a "mind", "understanding" or "consciousness",[a] regardless of how intelligently or human-like the program may make the computer behave. The argument was first presented by philosopher John Searle in his paper, "Minds, Brains, and Programs", published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences in 1980. It has been widely discussed in the years since. The centerpiece of the argument is a thought experiment known as the Chinese room. The argument is directed against the philosophical positions of functionalism and computationalism, which hold that the mind may be viewed as an information-processing system operating on formal symbols. The appropriately programmed computer with the right inputs and outputs would thereby have a mind in exactly the same sense human beings have minds.[b] Although it was originally presented in reaction to the statements of artificial intelligence (AI) researchers, it is not an argument against the goals of AI research, because it does not limit the amount of intelligence a machine can display. The argument applies only to digital computers running programs and does not apply to machines in general. Searle's thought experiment begins with this hypothetical premise: suppose that artificial intelligence research has succeeded in constructing a computer that behaves as if it understands Chinese. It takes Chinese characters as input and, by following the instructions of a computer program, produces other Chinese characters, which it presents as output. Suppose, says Searle, that this computer performs its task so convincingly that it comfortably passes the Turing test: it convinces a human Chinese speaker that the program is itself a live Chinese speaker. To all of the questions that the person asks, it makes appropriate responses, such that any Chinese speaker would be convinced that they are talking to another Chinese-speaking human being.
The Chinese room argument is a thought experiment of John Searle (1980a) and associated (1984) derivation. It is one of the best known and widely credited counters to claims of artificial intelligence (AI)---that is, to claims that computers do or at least can (someday might) think. According to Searle's original presentation, the argument is based on two key claims: brains cause minds and syntax doesn't suffice for semantics. Its target is what Searle dubs "strong AI." According to strong AI, Searle says, "the computer is not merely a tool in the study of the mind, rather the appropriately programmed computer really is a mind in the sense that computers given the right programs can be literally said to understand and have other cognitive states" (1980a, p. 417). Searle contrasts strong AI with "weak AI."
In this paper, we present an alternative to the Turing Test that has some conceptual and practical advantages. Like the original, it involves responding to typed English sentences, and English-speaking adults will have no difficulty with it. Unlike the original, the subject is not required to engage in a conversation and fool an interrogator into believing she is dealing with a person. Moreover, the test is arranged in such a way that having full access to a large corpus of English text might not help much. Finally, the interrogator or a third party will be able to decide unambiguously after a few minutes whether or not a subject has passed the test.
The complexities of the mind mirror the challenges of Artificial Intelligence. This article discusses the nature of thought itself–can it be replicated in a machine? From Ray Kurzweil's revolutionary book The Age of Intelligent Machines, published in 1990. At a time when computer technology is advancing at a breakneck pace and when software developers are glibly hawking their wares as having artificial intelligence, the inevitable question has begun to take on a certain urgency: Can a computer think? In one form or another this is actually a very old question, dating back to such philosophers as Plato, Aristotle, and Descartes. And after nearly 3,000 years the most honest answer is still "Who knows?" After all, what does it mean to think? So let's try some others.
This paper deals with the relationship between intelligent behaviour, on the one hand, and the mental qualities needed to produce it, on the other. We consider two well-known opposing positions on this issue: one due to Alan Turing and one due to John Searle (via the Chinese Room). In particular, we argue against Searle, showing that his answer to the so-called System Reply does not work. The argument takes a novel form: we shift the debate to a different and more plausible room where the required conversational behaviour is much easier to characterize and to analyze. Despite being much simpler than the Chinese Room, we show that the behaviour there is still complex enough that it cannot be produced without appropriate mental qualities.