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AISB event Bulletin Item

CALL FOR PARTICIPATION: "Is computation observer-relative?" The 7th AISB Symposium on Computing and Philosophy, AISB-50, 1-4 April 2014, Goldsmiths, London, UK

* Early bird registration ends TODAY, 28/02/14*

Click below for the full paper schedule as well as the general outline of the conference (including 
evening events):

This includes links to registration and information about fees. Events include a number of special 
guest speakers, as well as art exhibitions, performances, demonstrations, and a theatrical piece. 

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 Searles 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) Searles, 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 Searles idea that syntax is observer-relative serve to support, 
or instead to undermine, his famous Chinese Room argument?

Further information about the symposium can be found here


Dr John Preston, Department of Philosophy, The University of Reading, Reading, UK.
Dr Yasemin J. Erden, Philosophy Programme, St Mary's University, Twickenham, UK.
Prof. Mark Bishop, Department of Computing, Goldsmiths, University of London, London, UK.
Prof. Slawomir J Nasuto, School of Systems Engineering, University of Reading, Reading, UK.


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)

Any questions about fees, registration or membership should be directed to the appropriate 
conference chair in the first instance. 

Please send any queries about the C&P symposium to either me or to Dr John Preston, via the 
information in the symposium link above. 

With best wishes,