august 2000

                okay. so John Searle doesn't believe that it is
      OO        possible for machines to become intelligent. one
     OOOO       of his arguments is the "simulation isn't real"
   OOO  O       argument. it goes something like this. i think.
   OO   O       
   OO           first Searle acknowledges that computers can
   O            simulate physical systems. like molecules making
OOO   O O       a gas. or planets rotating about each other. or
OOO             the weather. or the neurons in the brain of a
O      O        human being.
    O           BUT he says - this is merely a simulation. like
                when a computer simulates a plane flying through
  O      O      the air. sure, he says, inside the computer the
      OO        plane is flying - but it can never, ever, carry
   OO OO        passengers from new york to san fran. that's
O  O            the difference between a simulation and the
   OO           real deal. and the same is true when a computer
   OO           simulates a human's brain. it may act like a
       O O      human - but it's not the real deal. it has no
      OO O      real intelligence.
     OO  O      
 O   OO  O      okay. well. i don't agree. consider.
 O   OO         
    OO          what if we dig-up Beethoven. we get his genetic
    OO          code. we get the genetic code of everyone alive
   OOO O        during his life. we get the plans for all the
   OOO O        buildings, all the forests, EVERYTHING on the
   OO           planet earth the day that Beethoven was born.
    O    O      and we simulate it.
O OO            
O OO OOOOO      (yes, this is a very nearly impossible task.
   O   OOO      certainly entirely impractical. but we're
   OO  OO       conducting a thought experiment, so such things
   OOOOOO       are allowed.)
    OOOOO       now we simulate the entire earth, from the
O O   OOO       moment of Beethoven's birth. is the simulated
O   O OOOO      Beethoven intelligent? (nevermind the other
OO    OOOO      simulated people living with him.)
   OO O O       
 O OOOOOOO      Searle says no. yes he looks like Beethoven
   OOOOOOO      (well, inside the computer he does, anyway.) and
  OOOOOOOO      he acts like Beethoven. and he composes like
  O  OOOOO      Beethoven. but no - the real Beethoven existed
  O  O OOO      long ago - this doppelganger is merely walking
  O  OO OO      in the original's footsteps. nothing original.
 OOO OO  O      nothing truly intelligent.
  OOOO OO       
OOOOO  OO       um.
 OOO O OO       
 OOOOOOOOO      well, it is a simulation after all. what happens
 OO  OOOOO      if i pause it for a moment, step inside with
  O OOOOOO      my digital scalpel, and cure the simulated
O O OOOOOO      Beethoven of his simulated syphilis.
  OO OOOOO      
   OOOOOOO      now - when the simulated Beethoven finishes his
OO OO OOOO      9th symphony - he doesn't die. he (and the rest
OOOOO OO        of his slightly modified world) continue on. he
OOOOOOOO        writes his 10th symphony.
O OOOO OO       
O   OOOOO       i want to know (and Searle, if you're listening,
OO  OO  O       and i've piqued your interest, do write back)
       OOO      why this 10th symphony isn't an intelligent
O OOO OO O      work.
O OOOOO  O      
OOOOOOOO O      i, for one, would love to hear it.
O OOOO          
O OOOO          -k