Publication 7515

Villalobos M. & Dewhurst J. (2016) Computationalism, enactivism, and cognition: Turing Machines as functionally closed systems. In: Lieto A., Bhatt M., Oltramari A. & Vernon D. (eds.) Proceedings of the 4th International Workshop on Artificial Intelligence and Cognition (AIC 2016), 16–17 July 2016, New York City. NY, USA CEUR Workshop Proceedings: 138–147. Fulltext at
In cognitive science, computationalism is the thesis that natural cognitive systems are computing systems. Traditionally, computationalism has understood computing and cognitive systems as functionally open systems, i.e., as systems that have functional entries through which they receive inputs, and exits through which they emit outputs. In opposition to this view, enactive theory claims that natural cognitive systems, unlike computing systems, are autonomous systems whose functional organization does not have inputs and outputs. Computationalism and enactivism seem to share an assumption that computing systems are input-output functional systems. In this paper, such an assumption will be critically reviewed by appealing to the cybernetic notion of functional closure. The notion of functional closure, as elaborated in Maturanas cybernetic neurophysiology, refers to a closed functional network in which, due to the circularity of the dynamics, we cannot distinguish inputs and outputs as intrinsic functional properties of the system. On the basis of this conceptualization, it will be argued that some paradigmatic cases of computing systems (notably a physically realized Turing machine) are actually functionally closed systems, and therefore computing systems without inputs and outputs. If this analysis is right, then the incompatibility that enactivists see between computing systems and organizationally closed functional systems would no longer hold, as it would not be true that computing systems must necessarily be understood as input-output systems.

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