We have a new publication in Philosophy & Technology entitled Zombie mouse in a Chinese room.
John Searle’s Chinese Room Argument (CRA) purports to demonstrate that syntax is not sufficient for semantics, and hence that because computation cannot yield understanding, the computational theory of mind, which equates the mind to an information processing system based on formal computations, fails. In this paper, we use the CRA, and the debate that emerged from it, to develop a philosophical critique of recent advances in robotics and neuroscience. We describe results from a body of work that contributes to blurring the divide between biological and artificial systems: so-called animats, autonomous robots that are controlled by biological neural tissue, and what may be described as remote-controlled rodents, living animals endowed with augmented abilities provided by external controllers.
We argue that, even though at first sight these chimeric systems may seem to escape the CRA, on closer analysis they do not. We conclude by discussing the role of the body-brain dynamics in the processes that give rise to genuine understanding of the world, in line with recent proposals from enactive cognitive science.