Nir Fresco, How context can determine the identity of physical computation

The next meeting of the seminar is planned for January, 28th at 12:00 CET (note: Thursday!). We are delighted to host as our speaker Nir Fresco, who will be glad to discuss his draft How context can determine the identity of physical computation.

Abstract. Computational explanations in the cognitive sciences span multiple levels of analysis. The indeterminacy of computation complicates the endeavour of answering the question ‘What does a particular neural—or physical—system do?’ in computational terms. For a single physical process may often be described equally well as computing several different mathematical functions—none of which is explanatorily privileged. But at which level of analysis should the computational identity of a physical system P be determined? Some argue that the computational nature of P is wholly exhausted by P’s physical or functional structure. Others argue that contextual factors also play a role in determining P’s computational identity, but they diverge on what that role is. Others yet argue that contextual factors essentially determine the identity of P. This chapter surveys some of these views and ultimately claims that the environment can and often does play a role in fixing the computational identity of P, thereby advancing a long-arm functional individuation of computation. 

The seminar is focused on discussing the papers, in a reading group style. The speaker first introduces the main theses of the paper (for around ten minutes), and then the floor is open for comments. In the online version of the seminar, the questions must be first signaled briefly on the chat to manage the flow of the discussion. To receive the Google Meet link, please write to Dr. Przemysław Nowakowski, p.nowakowski@ifispan.edu.pl

Our next speaker in February (Feb 12) is Mark-Oliver Casper. Will discuss his draft A Spectrum of Integration. Steps towards a Methodology of Situated Cognition Research.

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