Dream (2/1/17): Paper Man

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This dream is rare in that it occurred when I was partially awake. It happened in the early hours, and I had fallen asleep on my phone, just after reading the Wikipedia entry for the Chinese room thought experiment.

In the dream, I see a man who, from a certain distance, appears to be made of paper. He also appears to be two dimensional, insomuch as he only ever appears to be facing me, like a ginger bread man.

Christmas Lights at Garvan Gardens - Gingerbread Men(source: Gordon | CC)

As he approaches, I realize he is talking. He has been talking since before I could have ever heard him.

The things he says are understandable at the word and phrase level, but when taken on the whole, don’t make any sense. They seem to be constructed of leftover phrases from half-heard conversations, robbed of context, and repeated; spoken with incorrect vocal tone, like a machine reading emails.

I became afraid, and ran. But he followed after me, talking the whole time. I couldn’t shake him.

. . .

When I look back on this dream, I realize that Paper Man was actually imported, almost whole cloth, from the Chinese room thought experiment, which posits that “a program cannot give a computer a “mind”, “understanding” or “consciousness”, regardless of how intelligently or human-like the program may make the computer behave.”

So it follows: Paper Man is an entity who knows nothing but instruction; language without meaning.


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