Searle’s Chinese Room

Chinese room thought experiment

“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 question Searle wants to answer is this: does the machine literally “understand” Chinese? Or is it merely simulating the ability to understand Chinese? Searle calls the first position “strong AI” and the latter “weak AI”.

Searle then supposes that he is in a closed room and has a book with an English version of the computer program, along with sufficient paper, pencils, erasers, and filing cabinets. Searle could receive Chinese characters through a slot in the door, process them according to the program’s instructions, and produce Chinese characters as output. If the computer had passed the Turing test this way, it follows, says Searle, that he would do so as well, simply by running the program manually.

Searle asserts that there is no essential difference between the roles of the computer and himself in the experiment. Each simply follows a program, step-by-step, producing a behavior which is then interpreted as demonstrating intelligent conversation. However, Searle would not be able to understand the conversation. (“I don’t speak a word of Chinese,” he points out.) Therefore, he argues, it follows that the computer would not be able to understand the conversation either.

Searle argues that, without “understanding” (or “intentionality“), we cannot describe what the machine is doing as “thinking” and, since it does not think, it does not have a “mind” in anything like the normal sense of the word. Therefore, he concludes that “strong AI” is false.


Pluralistic Ignorance and Theranos

In social psychology, pluralistic ignorance is a situation in which a majority of group members privately reject a norm, but incorrectly assume that most others accept it, and therefore go along with it.This is also described as “no one believes, but everyone thinks that everyone believes“.

Bad Blood, John Carreyrou
page 45 –
“He told himself that if the company was moving to prime Palo Alto office space, then it must be doing something right.”

page 199 –
“George said a top surgeon in New York had told him the company was going to revolutionize the field of surgery and this was someone his good friend Henry Kissinger considered to be the smartest man alive. And according to Elizabeth, Theranos’s devices were already being used in medevac helicopters and hospital operating rooms, so they must be working.”

pages 271/272 –
“That thesis, as Mr. Carreyrou explained in discussions with us, is that all of the recognition by the academic, scientific, and health-care communities of the breakthrough contributions of Theranos’ achievements is wrong”

I don’t really understand how they’re doing it. But all these other guys say it works. … Maybe this is more Argument from Authority… Anyway. Bad Blood – Great read. 5 stars. Best business book I’ve read since The Smartest Guys in the Room.

London Busker Breaks it Down

Do you remember the last busker you saw on the tube? There’s a chance they remember you. If you had any kind of interaction with me, I would. If you smile, wave, cover your ears or sing along, I’ll record it.

One such notable interaction occurred at Leicester Square on a Saturday afternoon during a bog-standard rendition of Bruno Mars’s The Lazy Song. It has a catchy chorus which is preceded by the line, “I said it ’cause I can!”.

Just as I started the “…I can”, I noticed a huge group of school kids approach my busking pitch, staring with huge grins on their faces. As they approached, I watched in slow motion as their mouths opened. They all took deep breaths and in a moment my one-man performance was joined by a chorus of voices in perfect sync and harmony and we became an unexpected choir right there on the Underground.

Dan Hough / Londonist

GatsbyJS Hello World

Cool react based static site generator. Dig it.

Get Started
Gatsby is a blazing-fast static site generator for React.

Install Gatsby’s command line tool
npm install –global gatsby-cli
Using the Gatsby CLI
Create a new site.
gatsby new gatsby-site
cd gatsby-site
gatsby develop — Gatsby will start a hot-reloading development environment accessible at localhost:8000
Try editing the javascript pages in src/pages. Saved changes will live reload in the browser.
gatsby build — Gatsby will perform an optimized production build for your site generating static HTML and per-route JavaScript code bundles.
gatsby serve — Gatsby starts a local HTML server for testing your built site.

OCR App demo

Q – What’s a good Document Scanning app for my phone?
A – Office Lens
See test run below.

Phone Camera image:

Resulting text:
The shift-to-contrast reflex is designed so that it is suppressed when neurons in the central processing part of the model are firing at a high rate. When the firing rate drops off, say through fatigue, the reflex is released. We can, somewhat fancifully, think that the reflex is released when central processing is tired of (bored with) the current observation. For simple geometric figures, the net effect of the reflex is to cause the eye to shift to a new vertex of the observed figure.

Testing with this. Check it out.

Technology Bigot

tech·nol·o·gy big·ot \ tek-ˈnä-lə-jē bi-gət \

An individual who believes that their particular approach to a technical problem is the only one.

Example of TECHNOLOGY BIGOT in a sentence
“I get it, you like Oracle databases. But do you ever ask yourself if you’re just another TECHNOLOGY BIGOT?”

Zhengzhou / iPhone City

It all centers on Zhengzhou, a city of six million people in an impoverished region of China. Running at full tilt, the factory here, owned and operated by Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn, can produce 500,000 iPhones a day. Locals now refer to Zhengzhou as “iPhone City.”

A 32-gigabyte iPhone 7 costs an estimated $400 to produce. It retails for roughly $649 in the United States, with Apple taking a piece of the difference as profit. The result: Apple manages to earn 90 percent of the profits in the smartphone industry worldwide, even though it accounts for only 12 percent of the sales, according to Strategy Analytics, a research firm.

They file steadily into dozens of factory sites, spread out across 2.2 square miles. At the peak, some 350,000 workers assemble, test and package iPhones — up to 350 a minute.
Apple’s labor force, the size of a national army, relies heavily on the generosity of the Zhengzhou government.
As part of its deal with Foxconn, the state recruits, trains and houses employees. Provincial officials call townships and villages to ask for help finding potential worker

NY TIMES December 2016