In the “Chinese Room” thought experiment, philosopher John Searle asks us to imagine a person in a room reading out a computer code containing the symbols necessary to carry out a fluent conversation in Chinese, but the person in the room doesn’t understand Chinese. Does the room contain any true comprehension of Chinese? It seems to from the outside, but inside is just a computer code and an uncomprehending person. In this song, Baba puts a new twist on the experiment, imagining an old man who can’t rap, reading out a computer code that produces amazing beats and rhymes on demand. Does anyone or anything in the room know how to rap?
Picture an old man in a room with a drum machine
A book of rhymes, and a long instruction sheet
With the details of how to spit raps
An encyclopedia of hip-hop syntax
The old man doesn't know how to rap
But somehow he still sounds dope on a track
He can even kick it with syncopated delivery
Lyrically sketchin' pictures so vividly
That outside the room, people never imagine
The old man is less than a wizard at rappin'
‘Cause they can't see it happen, it's a black box
In goes a concept, out comes a rap that's hot
Some people think it's Jay-Z in the room
Eminem or Kanye that’s makin' the tunes
But really it's just an old man who’s not a rapper
And his non rap skills are a non-factor
‘Cause this old man has a set of instructions
For kickin’ raps with such impeccable functions
That it’s not even readable, it’s computer code
A digital cypher, totally inscrutable
So, the old man is nothing but a cog
In a machine designed to produce hip-hop
He adds nothing, no skills, no comprehension
No linguistic invention
It’s the code that’s intelligent, the code understands
What the old man doesn’t: how to bust raps
And that's just “functionalism” in a nutshell
Dope rap is what dope rap does well
So what does it take to make a record?
Just a few billion computations every second
And why would you assume that I'm human instead
Of a machine with a man in a room in my head?