This Week’s Debate: “Machines Can’t Understand”

Artificial-brain_48 Philospher John Searle's "Chinese room'' contains a man who knows no Chinese. He uses a book of rules to form Chinese replies to Chinese sentences passed in to him. Searle is willing to suppose that this process results in an intelligent Chinese conversation, but points out that the man performing this task doesn't understand the conversation. Likewise, Searle argues, and eminent physicist Roger Penrose agrees, a machine carrying out the procedure wouldn't understand Chinese. Therefore, machines can't understand.

Penrose, Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, thinks that a machine relying on classical physics won't ever have human-level performance, he uses some of Searle's arguments that even if it did, it wouldn't really be thinking. Penrose doesn't believe that computers constructed according to presently known physical principles can be intelligent and conjectures that modifying quantum mechanics may be needed to explain intelligence.

What do you think?

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