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Branding with physics and Chinese room

Branding with physics and Chinese room

Let me disclaim that while writing this blog, I feel like I would feed Chinese words to John Searle sitting in his Chinese room.

I know that I should not start a post with a sentence that refers to something that most readers know little about (it is attractive to a very narrow audience) and, on top of this, devise an obscure thesis. But I can not resist fighting against KISS logic. I am convinced that keeping it simple makes people stupid.

The Chinese Room Argument

It makes no sense to explain the argument in my wording if Stanford Encyclopedia provides a well-thought-out one should you not find the above YouTube example satisfying.

The argument and thought-experiment, now generally known as the Chinese Room Argument, was first published in a 1980 article by American philosopher John Searle (1932– ). It has become one of the best-known arguments in recent philosophy. Searle imagines himself alone in a room following a computer program to respond to Chinese characters slipped under the door. Searle understands nothing of Chinese, and yet, by following the program for manipulating symbols and numerals just as a computer does, he sends appropriate strings of Chinese characters back out under the door, and this leads those outside to mistakenly suppose there is a Chinese speaker in the room.

The narrow conclusion of the argument is that programming a digital computer may make it appear to understand language but could not produce real understanding…

Chinese Room Disposition

So what has the Chinese room and me feeding John Searle do with branding and physics from the title? (Yes, I intend to explain something, hurrah!)

It is now around 18 years that I’ve been trying to explain social phenomena through physics and some other “hard sciences” and, at the same time, to see how some concepts from human sciences (philosophy) could push “hard” scientists to understand more comprehensive what they are doing.

I can see in the eyes and in the responses of those few who are willing to respond that they understand my words but do not understand their meaning. Data is fed, but sense does not emerge. I can see that they take each domain as valid but connections as irrelevant. So I know they get both my “Chinese words” and rules on understanding them, but they do not understand their meaning.

Chinese room experiment proves nothing

When I first read Searle’s argument, I thought he attempted to prove a strong AI possibility. Later, reading explanations like the one from Stanford Encyclopedia, I recognized that I misread the argument.

Did I?


The response depends on where you place the borders of the system. If you take the whole system, not only a man in a box, then the system, as Searle described, becomes intelligent. The box is stupid, but the system one level up is not.

There is a parallel with the entropy law claiming that entropy increases no matter what in a closed system. The catch for entropy and the Chinese room lies in how we define the system’s borders.

Yet the paradox does not stop here.

Conclusion Nr. 1

Strong artificial intelligence (AI), as explained by John Searle in a Chinese room thought experiment, understood within the confines of the room, does not work yet for another reason. One needs not to use the Chinese room example to support Searle’s thesis (the Chinese language being marginal in 1980, but not anymore!). Even for human intelligence, let us call it Strong AI, there are instances where no sense is derived from known syntax.

Conclusion Nr. 2

As seen above, communication is impossible if one is locked in a Chinese room. Should John Searle come out of the Chinese room, only then would communication as a sensemaking activity be possible.

Since we know that communication rests on meme exchange and meme participation, the Chinese room allows words to enter, not memes. The Chinese room is meme and brand-resistant since we know brands are memes and nothing but memes.

Introducing memes into long-lasting discussions around Chinese room thought experiment solves apparent issue instantly.

Conclusion Nr. 3

Branding specialists, physicists, neuroscientists (and so on) are often locked in their separate Chinese rooms. They feed words together with rules one to another, but they will stay blind to anything outside their respective room and thus numb in spreading their memes and understanding.

Conclusion Nr. 4

The Chinese room thought experiment helped us understand the difference between data and information. Data fed into the room stay data when isolated in the room and transform into information only taken in a broader context, i.e., in the interrelation of at least two memetic creatures.

The paradox Seale did not notice is that he cannot explain the Chinese room without another memetic creature that feeds data from outside the room. The room and the man in the room are impossible without the outer space. “Inside” makes sense only if there is also “outside”.

Challenge for Science Communication

Until one realizes that we are living in a world that interconnects all physical, genetic, and memetic phenomena on the same level, one is not only separated from meanings supposedly produced in other rooms but even separated from your sensemaking activity since, as proved so often in this blog, memes are interrelational. They exist only as interrelational and intersubjective.

So, for instance, only after physicists allow themselves to exit the data domain and enter into a domain of intersubjective sensemaking activity they open an option to be understood. With this shift, he loses his divine (untouchable) status but gains connectedness and understanding. So, communicating science means opening it to non-scientific discourse and challenge by definition. No challenge from outside, no communication.

Disclaimer 1

I wish I had a better understanding of the laws of chemistry. Thermodynamics and complexity theory is, unfortunately, not enough.

Disclaimer 2

John Searle is formally not a neuroscientist. But since he is a philosopher dealing with consciousness and strong AI, he is linked to neuroscience. According to Conclusion nr. 3: he is linked to neuroscience in any case.

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