Rickert on embedded computation (was re: science of consciousness.)

Anders N Weinstein andersw+ at pitt.edu
Tue Apr 28 21:18:25 EST 1998


In article <6i5fj2$a7c at ux.cs.niu.edu>, Neil Rickert <rickert at cs.niu.edu> wrote:
>                             From my perspective, the Turing theory
>is that of an idealized mathematical model of computation.  

Where, I take it, the "computation" that the Turing theory aims to
model must be the physical process. So, in Rickert-speak there are what
we might call physical "computations" going on everywhere in the world.
We who can grasp idealizations such as Turing's and employ them in modelling
natural processes can sometimes usefully impose the abstract TM model on 
.. on what exactly? I guess, the physical phenomenon. And yet, to call 
something a physical phenomenon is itself to impose idealizations 
i.e. physical laws.  One wonders if *anything* could ever show up as an
object for us without mediation by some idealization, e.g. those 
packed into the descriptive concepts we use to characterize the content 
of our most epistemically basic perceptual experiences (observation 
sentences). But I digress.

The main problem I find with this is: if your theory has it that what
goes on in Niagara Falls or the core of the sun or in a hurricane or in
alphabet soup when you boil it might be "computation", haven't you
robbed the idea of computation of any significant meaning? After all,
we already have mathematical physics to deal with these systems.



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