David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2001)
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.” According to weak AI, computers just simulate thought, their seeming understanding isn’t real understanding (just as-if), their seeming calculation is only as-if calculation, etc. Nevertheless, computer simulation is useful for studying the mind (as for studying the weather and other things)
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