Computation as an intrinsic property

Minds and Machines 4 (4):451-67 (1994)
In an effort to uncover fundamental differences between computers and brains, this paper identifies computation with a particular kind of physical process, in contrast to interpreting the behaviors of physical systems as one or more abstract computations. That is, whether or not a system is computing depends on how those aspects of the system we consider to be informational physically cause change rather than on our capacity to describe its behaviors in computational terms. A physical framework based on the notion of causal mechanism is used to distinguish different kinds of information processing in a physically-principled way; each information processing type is associated with a particular causal mechanism. The causal mechanism associated with computation is pattern matching, which isphysically defined as the fitting of physical structures such that they cause a simple change. It is argued that information processing in the brain is based on a causal mechanism different than pattern matching so defined, implying that brains do not compute, at least not in the physical sense that digital computers do. This causal difference may also mean that computers cannot have mental states.
Keywords Computation  Computer  Machine  Mind  Natural  Science
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DOI 10.1007/BF00974170
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John R. Searle (1980). Minds, Brains and Programs. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (3):417-57.

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