This debate is, in my opinion, quite useless as we can see it’s the difference in the way this 2 men define the world of science. Chomsky believe that the study of Science means to give an insight of the world while Norvig support the ideas that we must using models, which portray the insight, and then deduce the insightful theory subsequently. However, in my opinion, it is a nobody win situation where their ideas can go on forever.
First of all, the dispute over the “insight” and “description” is meaningless because Chomsky himself also declared in the interview that “some of the modules may be computational, other may not be” and it is exactly the counter of his theory. Some part of the science can be “insight”, while other may not be and thus, scientists need some replacements, something can help them to observe as accurately as possible to come up with the final “insight” and the “description” is there. The other way round is easier as Norvig himself also claims the importance of “insight” in science and just want Chomsky to admit the importance of “description” in science.
Secondly, It’s quite clear that, despite learning language is an innate ability, learning language is a process of absorbing knowledge. Most studies in the world have shown that it is better to learn a language through listening and reading- that is, we do not learn a language by hard studying and applying it, or memorizing and producing it. Rather, we try to understand the knowledge we are taking in, through the comprehensible input collected through interacting with the world, and develop our vocabularies and grammars on those bases. That’s why, in my opinion, the difference between an adult and a child is not how their brains treat the language (as a puzzle or as a language, according to Chomsky), but their learning environments. One truth is that children are better at mimicking and not preoccupied by the learned languages like adults, but those reasons only help them better than adults at pronunciation, which is irrelevant to computers. Adults have averagely, more challenging environment than what most children have. A child, since it was born, has nothing to do but leaning a language while an adult would have other concerns, together with learning a language, take over his life. The devotion is much less while the expectation is more, adult’s standard of fluency is much higher than a child’ standard, and thus lead to the presumption of a child is better at learning a language. Computers, likewise, acts as an infant demanding the feeds of knowledge- the set of parameters- before being able to communicate.
The question,then, is to find out the human learning process that we can mimic for computer.From my experience, most of my friends who live in English speaking countries will score better than the foreign students at grammatical multiple choice questions, but seem less likely to be able to explicitly explain the reasons behind their choices.The answer mostly received would be “because they/it sound(s) familiar”. Where does that “familiar” come from? Studying language naturally when you are growing up is a progress of hearing-data inputting- and recalling when heard again- internally processing of data. Thus, it is not wrong for Chomsky to criticize the ineffectiveness of old Markov’s chain, because it fails to recognize the familiar trends which help us differentiate the grammatical versus ungrammatical. However, as Norvig said, it is a 50-years-old mechanism that I believe, in this fast changing world, will soon replaced by better probabilistic and statistic mechanism. On the other hand, Norvig has also shown that even with the old Markov’s chain, probabilistic models are still better than Chomsky’s theory at the degree of sensibility of a sentence than while Chomsky’s is better at differentiating the grammatical/ungrammatical. The irony here is, the algorithmic system (probabilistic model) is used to judge a intricate set of words for its meaning while the unsystematic algorithm (Chomsky’s theory) is used to judge how well a sentence has followed a set of rules made by a language.