Monday, October 21, 2013

Paul Thagard on the Extended Breath Hypothesis

"Consider Otto, a man with severe emphysema resulting from years of smoking that destroyed the air sacs in his lungs."

Thanks to Larry Shapiro for bringing my attention to this.  Is this the first less than enthusiastic treatment of EEEE cognition/mind/emotion/consciousness that they've had over at Psychology Today?

Friday, October 11, 2013

This is not my view

In my earlier post, I noted my surprise regarding some of Robinson's interpretations of my views.  Here is another surprising passage:
I also recognize in this particular case that both the proponents and the critics of the EMT have stipulated that empirical evidence either for or against the EMT will be set to one side, and the case argued on its philosophical merits. (p. 3).
I never register any stipulation like this.  Nor do I think Rupert does.  Maybe there are some people out there who have stipulated that empirical evidence for or against the EMT will be set to one side, but I don't think Rupert or Adams or I say that.  I don't think Clark or Rowlands or Menary or Wilson or Hurley or Noe think this.  I don't recall anyone who does.  Maybe there are folks out there who do this.  I have not read everything in the literature.

But, I also try to evaluate EMT on the empirical evidence.  Look at the discussion of primacy and recency effects in memory, the generation effect, etc.  How is that not appealing to empirical evidence?  Look at the discussion of retinal fading.  How is that not empirical?  Look at the stuff on neuromuscular blockade.   How is that not empirical?  Look at the stuff from psychology that Rupert talks about.

Is computation observer-relative?

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

The convention is organised by the Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour (AISB)


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’?


Questions of ontology and epistemology


Is computation an observer relative phenomenon? What implications do answers to this question have for the doctrine of computationalism?


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?


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.


Computation in machines and computation in nature; Turing versus non-Turing computation


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?


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

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.


      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]

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 Chair: Dr. John Preston, Department of Philosophy, The University of Reading, Reading, UK.
                  tel. +44 (0) 118 378 7327
                  web page: <http://>

Symposium Executive-Officer and OC member: Dr. Yasemin J. Erden, CBET, St Mary's University College, Twickenham, UK.

tel: +44 (0) 208 224 4250
web page: <>

Symposium OC Member: Prof. Mark Bishop, Department of Computing, Goldsmiths, University of London, London, 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.

tel: +44 (0) 118 378 6701
web page: <>




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) 

Dr Yasemin J. Erden
Lecturer/Programme Director Philosophy
St Mary's University College
Waldegrave Road
Twickenham, TW1 4SX
United Kingdom
AISB Committee member (Schools Liaison)

Human Computation and the Humanities Conference

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS - Human Computation and the Humanities Conference

DATE: February 22-23rd, 2014

VENUE: Columbia University in the City of New York 
(Travel funding may be available for selected participants)

SUBMISSIONS: 300-400 word abstract of a 4,000-5,000 word paper OR a proposal for a discussion panel





Human computation is an emerging area of transdisciplinary research.  The field draws on insights from computer science, complexity theory, psychology, network theory, economics, engineering, machine learning, and many other disciplines to explore the computational potential of systems in which humans and machines collaborate to solve problems.  Successful applications of the theory of human computation include von Ahn’s reCAPTCHA,’s mechanical turk, computationally significant games like’s protein folding puzzle game, and Google’s Waze platform for monitoring traffic and road conditions.
While human computation is traditionally seen as field dominated by mathematically-oriented work, there is room for significant humanistic contribution.   Human Computation and the Humanities (HCH) is designed to bring philosophers, historians, literary theorists, and other humanities scholars interested in human computation into dialog both with one another and with more traditional human computation researchers.  Mary Catherine Bateson, in her introduction to the recent Springer Handbook on Human Computation,  suggests that this field may potentially offer “models of interdependence and connectivity that will convey to those who work with them the conviction that individual voices and actions count.”  The study of human computation thus raises a number of issues relevant to the humanities, including the nature of collective intelligence, the metaphysics of complex systems, the prerequisites for social collaboration, the ethics of privacy, the politics of self-organized societies, and many others.
HCH explores this complex of questions from a transdisciplinary point of view--one that emphasizes collaboration between the humanities and the sciences. This conference is a supplement and follow-up to the more general AAAI Conference on Human Computation and Crowdsourcing (HCOMP-2013), held November 6-9, 2013 in Palm Springs, California, USA, and comes on the heels of the publication of Springer’s Handbook of Human Computation in December 2013.  These two events will provide ample fodder for cross-talk between the humanities and the sciences.

HCH is structured to maximize the opportunities for interdisciplinary engagement and reflection on a broad spectrum of topics related to human computation.  HCH will highlight the transdisciplinary nature of the study of human computation, and engage with areas of academia and culture that might not generally participate in the discourse surrounding information processing and computation.  
We invite proposals for both paper and panel presentations from scholars working in any field related to human computation.  Submitted abstracts should be of approximately 300-400 words, and associated papers should be suitable for approximately 30 minute presentation time (4,000-5,000 words).  Proposed panel discussions should include a clear description of the panel’s topic, its relationship to human computation, and a suggested list of invited participants.

 Proposals must be submitted by December 22, 2013, and should be submitted via email to
Decisions will be announced by January 13, 2014.  The HCH will be held on February 22 and 23, and will take place on the campus of Columbia University.  Travel funding may be available for selected participants.


Jon Lawhead
Columbia University PhD Candidate, Philosophy

Varieties of Enactivism

An upcoming event.  Info here.