The 7th AISB Symposium on Computing and Philosophy:

Is computation observer-relative?

AISB-50, Goldsmiths, London, 1-4 April 2014

As part of the AISB-50 Annual Convention 2014 to be held at Goldsmiths,

University of London

http://www.aisb.org.uk/events/aisb14

The convention is organised by the Society for the Study of Artificial

Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour (AISB)

http://www.aisb.org.uk/

OVERVIEW:

One of the claims integral to John Searle?s critique of computational

cognitive science and ?Strong AI? was that computation is

?observer-relative? or ?observer-dependent? (Searle, The Rediscovery of

the Mind, 1992). This claim has already proven to be very controversial

in cognitive science and AI (Endicott 1996; Coulter & Sharrock, Rey, and

Haugeland in Preston & Bishop (eds.), Views into the Chinese Room, 2002).

Those who come to the subject of computation via physics, for example,

often argue that computational properties are physical properties, that

is, that computation is ?intrinsic to physics?. On such views,

computation is comparable to the flow of information, where information

is conceived of in statistical terms, and thus computation is both

observer-independent and (perhaps) ubiquitous. Connected with this are

related issues about causality and identity (including continuity of), as

well as the question of alternative formulations of information.

This symposium seeks to evaluate arguments, such as (but not limited to)

Searle?s, which bear directly on the question of what kind of processes

and properties computational processes and properties are. It thus seeks

to address the general question ?What is computation?? in a somewhat

indirect way. Questions that might be tackled include: Are computational

properties syntactic properties? Are syntactic properties discovered, or

assigned? If they must be assigned, as Searle argues, does this mean they

are or can be assigned arbitrarily? Might computational properties be

universally realized? Would such universal realizability be

objectionable, or trivialise computationalism? Is syntax

observer-relative? What kinds of properties (if any) are

observer-relative or observer-dependent? Is observer-relativity a matter

of degree? Might the question of whether computation is observer-relative

have different answers depending on what is carrying out the computation

in question? Might the answer to this question be affected by the advent

of new computing technologies, such as biologically- and

physically-inspired models of computation? Is it time to start

distinguishing between different meanings of ?computation?, or is there

still mileage in the idea that some single notion of computation is both

thin enough to cover all the kinds of activities we call computational,

and yet still informative (non-trivial)? Does Searle?s idea that syntax

is observer-relative serve to support, or instead to undermine, his

famous ?Chinese Room argument??

TOPICS OF INTEREST:

1. COMPUTATIONAL-PHILOSOPHICAL ISSUES

Questions of ontology and epistemology

i. COMPUTATION AS OBSERVER RELATIVE

Is computation an observer relative phenomenon? What

implications do answers to this question have for the

doctrine of computationalism?

ii. WHAT IS COMPUTATION?

Does computation (the unfolding process of a computational

system) define a natural kind? If so, how do we differentiate

the computational from the non-computational?

iii. IMPLICATIONS FOR COMPUTATIONAL ONTOLOGY, and

PAN-COMPUTATIONALISM

To what extent and in what ways can we say that computation

is taking place in natural systems? Are the laws of natural

processes computational? Does a rock implement every

input-less FSA (Putnam, Chalmers)? Is the evolution of the

universe computable as the output of an algorithm? I.e. is

the temporal evolution of a state of the universe a digital

informational process akin to what goes on in the circuitry

of a computer? Digital ontology’ (Zuse), “the nature of the

physical universe is ultimately discrete”; cf. Kant’s

distinction – from the antinomies of pure reason – of “simple

parts” and no simple parts; the discrete and the analogue.

2. SOME COMPUTATIONAL-PHILOSOPHICAL ISSUES

Computation in machines and computation in nature; Turing versus

non-Turing computation

i. COMPUTATION IN NATURE

Investigating the difference between formal models of

physical and biological systems and physical/biological

reality-in-itself and the implication(s) for theory of mind /

cognition.

(a) The study of ‘computation’ using natural processes /

entities (i.e. machines not exclusively based on [man-made]
silicon-based architectures).

(b) What is the underlying nature of such natural

[physical/biological] computational processes? I.e. are the

laws of natural processes computational at their very core OR

merely contingently computational because the mathematical

language we use to express them is biased towards being

computational?

SUBMISSION AND PUBLICATION DETAILS:

Submissions must be full papers and should be sent via EasyChair:

https://www.easychair.org/conferences/?conf=aisb14cp

Text editor templates from a previous convention can be found at:

We request that submitted papers are limited to eight pages. Each paper

will receive at least two reviews. Selected papers will be published in

the general proceedings of the AISB Convention, with the proviso that at

least ONE author attends the symposium in order to present the paper and

participate in general symposium activities.

IMPORTANT DATES:

i. Full paper submission deadline: 3 January 2014

ii. Notification of acceptance/rejection decisions: 3

February 2014

iii. Final versions of accepted papers (Camera ready

copy): 24 February 2014

iv. Convention: 1st – 4th April 2014, Goldsmiths,

University of London, UK [symposium date to be confirmed]

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

There will be separate proceedings for each symposium, produced before

the Congress, and available to conference delegates. In previous years

there have been awards for the best student paper, and limited student

bursaries. These details will be circulated as and when they become

available. Authors of a selection of the best papers will be invited to

submit an extended version of the work to a journal special issue.

SYMPOSIUM ORGANISERS:

Symposium Chair: Dr. John Preston, Department of Philosophy,

The University of Reading, Reading, UK.

email:

j.m.preston@reading.ac.uk

tel. +44 (0) 118 378 7327

web page: http://www.reading.ac.uk/philosophy/about/staff/j-m-preston.aspx>

Symposium Executive-Officer and OC member: Dr. Yasemin J.

Erden, CBET, St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, UK.

email:

yj.erden@smuc.ac.uk

tel: +44 (0) 208 224 4250

web page:

Symposium OC Member: Prof. Mark Bishop, Department of

Computing, Goldsmiths, University of London, London, UK.

email:

m.bishop@gold.ac.uk

tel: +44 (0) 207 078 5048

web page:

Symposium OC member: Prof. Slawomir J Nasuto, School of

Systems Engineering, University of Reading, Reading, UK.

email:

s.j.nasuto@reading.ac.uk

tel: +44 (0) 118 378 6701

web page:

SYMPOSIUM WEBSITE:http://extranet.smuc.ac.uk/events-conferences/aisb-symposium-2014/Pages/default.

aspx

POSTER ADVERTISING THE CFP: [To follow]

PROGRAMME COMMITTEE:

Dr Mark Coeckelbergh (University of Twente, NL)

Prof. S. Barry Cooper (University of Leeds, UK)

Dr. Anthony Galton (University of Exeter, UK)

Dr Bob Kentridge (Durham University, UK)

Dr Stephen Rainey (St Mary’s University College, UK)

Dr Mark Sprevak (University of Edinburgh, UK)

Prof. Michael Wheeler (University of Stirling, UK)