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AISB event Bulletin Item

CALL FOR PAPERS: The 6th AISB Symposium on Computing and Philosophy: The Scandal of Computation - What is Computation?, April 2nd - 5th 2013, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK

As part of the AISB Annual Convention 2013 Organised by the Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour (AISB)



What is computation? Society builds and uses millions of computers each year so at first sight the 
answer seems trivial. A computer is merely a general purpose, typically electronic device, that 
can be programmed to carry out a finite set of arithmetic or logical operations. These days they 
announce their ubiquity to the world in phones, desktop devices, washing machines, even lawn mowers.

Historically, however, the etymology of the word (from the OED) informs us that the notion of 
computation was identified with the action of humans who make calculations, often with the aid of 
calculating machines. In the 1940s this definition was refined with that of an "effective method" 
(a procedure that reduces the solution of problems to a series of rote steps which is bound to 
give the correct answer in finite time for all possible inputs), to yield the notion of the 
algorithm an effective method for calculating the values of a function and the notion of the 
effective calculability of functions with an effective method (algorithmic solution). In this way, 
the notion of computation came to be identified with the actions [steps] carried out by [automated]
computers to produce definite outputs [in finite time]. This notion frames computation in terms of 
an agent, which raises the questions of what computation is per se - merely the dynamics of 
information flow? And in this scenario, how can computational data be meaningful? How can 
meaningful data acquire truth-values?

For a long time our ideas about computations (or about the underlying computational models) 
were more or less rigid, fixed, established in the middle of the twentieth century. In the centre 
there was the model of a classical Turing machine, with its scenario of a finite computation 
defining a fixed mapping from the inputs to the outputs. The computations of Turing machines 
served as a means for defining the complexity of computations, the notion of the universality of 
computations, and the notion of computability (historically, the lastly mentioned three notions 
should have been listed in a reversed order). Nevertheless, with the advent of modern computing 
technologies, networking, and advances in physics and biology, has emerged the ideas that 
computation is a far broader, far more common, and more complex phenomenon than that modelled by 
Turing machines. It has been increasingly more difficult to see newly emerging models of 
computations through the optics of Turing machine computations. Examples include biologically 
inspired modelssuch as neural nets, DNA computing, self-assembled structures, molecular computers,
cognitive computing, brain computing, swarm computing, etc., or physically inspired models, such 
as quantum computing, relativistic computers, hyper-computers, and, last but not least, 
technologically enabled models, with the prominent example of the Internet, but also various 
(also mobile) networks.

In this symposium we hope to address these and other key issues related to the "scandal of 

TOPICS OF INTEREST (including, but not limited to)

1. CORE PHILOSOPHICAL ISSUES: Questions of ontology and epistemology

Does computation (the unfolding process of a computational system) define a natural kind? If so 
how to differentiate the computational from the non-computational?

Computation as an observer relative phenomenon (cf. Searle); does a rock implement every 
input-less FSA (Putnam)?

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.

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?

2. SOME COMPUTATIONAL-PHILOSOPHICAL ISSUES: 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.
- The study of 'computation' using natural processes / entities (i.e. machines not exclusively 
based on [man-made] silicon-based architectures).
- 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 

Investigating the philosophical implications of non-Turing computability for the  philosophy of 
science/physics and the philosophy of mind.
- Questions regarding the ultimate nature of causality and its relationship to computational 
(both TM and non-TM) models and implications for philosophy of physics/science and the philosophy 
of mind.
- Bio-hybrid [Animat] 'computational' systems (aka A-Machines); the phenomenology of A-Machines; 
the putative TM/non-TM computational capacity of A-Machines.


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: 14 January 2013
ii. Notification of acceptance/rejection decisions: 11 February 2013
iii. Final versions of accepted papers (Camera ready copy): 4 March 2013
iv. Convention: 2-5 April 2013 [symposium dates tbc]


Please note that there will be separate proceedings for each symposium, produced before the
convention. Each delegate will receive a memory stick containing the proceedings of all the 
symposia. 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: Prof. Mark Bishop, Department of Computing, Goldsmiths, University of London, 
London, UK.
tel:                            +44 (0) 207 078 5048
web page:            

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. Slawomir J Nasuto, School of Systems Engineering, University of Reading, Reading, UK.
tel:                            +44 (0) 118 378 6701
web page:            

Symposium OC member: Prof. Jiri Wiedermann, Institute of Computer Science, Academy of Sciences of 
the Czech Republic, Pod Vodarenskou vezi 2, 182 07 Praha 8, Czech Republic.
tel:                            +420 266 053 520
web page:            

Symposium OC member: Dr. Stephen Rainey, Researcher Facults Universitaires Notre Dames de la Paix,
Facult d'Informatique, Rue de Grandgagnage 21, Namur, Belgium
tel:                            +32 471 88 26 02
web page:            


Dr Ron Chrisley (University of Sussex, UK)
Prof. S. Barry Cooper (University of Leeds, UK) 
Prof. Jos Flix Costa (IST Technical University of Lisbon, PT) 
Prof. George F. R. Ellis (University of Cape Town, SA) 
Dr Peter beim Graben (Humboldt-Universitt zu Berlin, DE) 
Prof. Yuri Gurevich (Microsoft Research, USA)   
Dr Phyllis Illari (University College London, UK)   
Dr Robert W. Kentridge (Durham University, UK)  
Prof. Jan van Leeuwen (Universiteit Utrecht, NL)   
Prof. Matthias Scheutz (Tufts University, USA)   
Prof. Oron Shagrir (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, IL)   
Prof. Hava T. Siegelmann (University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA)   
Dr Mariarosaria Taddeo (University of Hertfordshire, UK)   
Mario Villalobos (The University of Edinburgh, UK)