Re: Computation

From: Parker, Chris (
Date: Sun Feb 04 1996 - 16:02:55 GMT

Computation is the manipulation of interpretable symbols. An example is
that symbols interpretable by accountants as numerical values of
incomes and expenditures (input) are fed into a computer running a
financial application or software package. The computer manipulates and
possibly transforms these symbols according to rules (computation) and
produces further symbols interpretable by accountants as a numerical
cash balance (output).

Positive evidence:

1. C=C provided a solution to the dualist mind/body problem. I
mind/body = program/computer, then the gap between the mental mind and
the physical brain disappeared in the same way that programs run on
computers. The mind, like a program, was implementation independent,
and the brain, like the computer, is irrelevant to understanding

2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been very successful in emulating
intelligent human activities such as: question and answer programs
which appear to learn as they run, as in the Turing Test situation
where a computer passes the (linguistic) test if an expert could not
tell whether its answers to questions came from a computer or human;
and programs that can emulate chess experts.

3. Computation has been successful in human type functions such as
formal logic and calculations, exceeding human ability in speed,
complexity and accuracy.

4. The successful simulation or modelling capacity of computation, from
simple thermostatically controlled furnaces to aircraft behaviour in
wind tunnels and traffic congestion on motorways, has also been an
achievement which has tempted some to see computations ability to
simulate eventually extended to the mind. Pylyshyn said that cognition
should be seen as literal computation, not merely simulated by it.

5. There is also fabricated evidence that neural nets in computation
are functionally equivalent to those in brains by virtue of their

6. The failure of common sense (grandmother) objections may also be
seen as evidence: that unlike us computers can't do anything new, be
creative, make mistakes, exercise choice, have feelings; unlike us
computers are inflexible, have no real history, are just machines and
are isolated from the world. All these are either plain wrong or

Whether or not cognition = computation, it is quite clear that AI can
perform some of the same functions as cognition, and this has helped us
to understand our own cognition in new and novel ways.

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