Is the mind a Turing machine? How could we tell?
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: Is the mind a Turing machine? How could we tell?
: Marcin Miłkowski
Abstract : In many philosophical discussions, it is assumed that the computational explanation of the mind implies that it is being explained as a Universal Turing Machine (UTM). The reason why it is being proposed as a model of the mind is that it is the standard model of computation, and that is a universal machine – i.e., any other digital computer might be simulated by the UTM. So if the mind is a computer that is not able to compute everything that the UTM can, the UTM might still simulate it.ï¿½In recent years, several criticisms to such a proposal have been raised. First, it was argued that the UTM requires an infinite tape, which is something that is impossible physically (or impossible as a physical part of the brain). Second, it was argued that the UTM is not a good candidate for explaining the intricacies of the human mind as it has a completely different architecture: so, while the set of functions computed by the machine could be the same as the one computed by the mind, it would differ dramatically in terms of speed and space requirements. Third, some have claimed that there are physical systems capable of hyper-Turing computation, so the UTM might not be the strongest model of computation available.ï¿½In my talk, I want to focus on the epistemic question: how could one tell that a physical system is a UTM? I will distinguish two senses in which one could say that a physical system “is” a UTM: (1) when a physical system has a function that could be simulated with a UTM (functional sense); (2) when a physical system is a mechanism best described as a UTM (mechanistic sense). I will enumerate conditions that must be fulfilled to qualify a physical system to be a UTM in both senses and show differences between the two. It will turn out that in the functional sense, many physical systems might be UTMs, whereas in the mechanistic sense, the set will be much restricted. I will also discuss the problem of finiteness: it seems that for many algorithms, the tape length is restricted anyway (especially if the restriction of the input value range is the part of the algorithm), so the finiteness might not be the biggest problem. Moreover, in the mechanistic sense, one does not select the model of computation simply by picking the strongest model possible, so the hyper-Turing models must also match the mental mechanisms as strictly as any other descriptions of mechanisms that we posit in science.ï¿½The mind does not seem to be a UTM in the mechanistic sense at all because of its architecture; and proper computational explanations in cognitive science require that the architecture is matched strictly. I will discuss the problem of the required level of detail in mechanistic computational explanations: it transpires that the philosophically popular UTM is not a good candidate for a scientific model of the mind, even if we accept the standard computational theory of mind.ï¿½
: Turing machine; mind; computationalism; hypercomputation
||Instytut Filozofii i Socjologii PAN, Warszawa|
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