In today’s world, we are surrounded and engulfed by technology
– computers, telephones, clocks, TV’s, refrigerators, and so on. With these
technological marvels we can translate languages almost instantaneously, have
conversations with our smart phones, commute with self-driving cars, and even classify
a robot, Sofia the Robot, as a verified Saudi Arabian citizen. These technologies
and their developments have slowly taken an essential part in people’s day to day
lives, however with these advancements a question about artificial intelligence
arises: can computers think and possess intelligence and mental states just as
humans can? John Searle in his paper “Minds, Brains, and Programs” addresses this
question and helps break down the overall philosophical debate about artificial
intelligence. One of Searle’s ideas that stood out to me was The Chinese Room.

Searle makes a clear distinction between what he calls “strong
artificial Intelligence” and “weak artificial intelligence” to help distinguish
whether computers can actually understand as humans do. However, as I further
researched artificial intelligence I found it intriguing that Searle classified
artificial intelligence as weak or strong.  The basic breakdown of any computer is that
they were programmed by a human to do a certain task or to have a certain
outcome – no matter how fancy that might be – therefore there should be no
distinctions between if it is weak or strong in its programming. Furthermore,
even if, for example, a computer began to think or understand on its own, as
Searle says strong artificial intelligence can do, then it still would have initially
been programmed to do that in the first place. For example, Siri – from Apple – might be
categorized as weak AI while AlphaGo – a computer program that bypasses certain
process and learns to play the game of Go simply by playing games against
itself might be categorized as strong AI.  Consequently, although one might be seen as weak
AI and the other seen as strong AI they were both programmed by humans to perform
tasks. Therefore, the classification of artificial intelligence as weak or
strong seems a bit fuzzy to me.

However, I think Searle’s predominant argument about the Chinese
Room is very compelling. I agree with the fact that even though it may seem
like a computer is communicating easily with humans it is clear they can only
do this because they were given a certain set of instructions. Overall, the Chinese
room offers a good starting point for thinking about the claims for strong artificial
intelligence, but it does not help completely solve the problem. 


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