What is Computation?

From: Nickson, Joanne (JMN295@psy.soton.ac.uk)
Date: Fri May 24 1996 - 10:15:39 BST

What is computation?

Computation is a process of symbol manipulation. It works according
to a set of rules which operate using arbitrary symbols. The
hardware (implementation) in computation is irrelevant becuse of the
arbitrariness of the symbols. The important part of computation is
the set of rules or algorithms which manipulate these symbols.
Computations work on mechanical rules which operate purely upon the
shape of the symbol without having any knowledge about what they
actually mean. Algorithms, the mechanical rules, are mindless
processes which means that computation needs no explanation like a
homunculus. This eliminates the problem that imagery theory posed.
As long as the correct procedure for manipulating the symbols is
applied the outcome will be correct regardless of whether the process
has been understood. An example of computation is the formula for a
mathematical equation ie. y = a+bx. A computer (or the mind) need not
understand what the symbols stand for, in fact it doesn't matter what
the symbols are or what shape they take as long as the rules are
learned and followed the result will be correct. The process of
computation uses input which requires no understanding to produce
correct output.

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