Special Issue "Natural Computation: Attempts in Reconciliation of Dialectic Oppositions"

A special issue of Philosophies (ISSN 2409-9287).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 September 2017).

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Marcin J. Schroeder Website E-Mail
IEHE (Institute for Excellence in Higher Education), Global Learning Center, Tohoku University, 41 Kawauchi, Aoba-ku, Sendai 980-8576, Japan
Interests: philosophy of information and computation; philosophy and history of science and logic; foundations of physics and mathematics; mathematical formalization of scientific theories

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The term “nature” (as well as its adjective form “natural”) is equally elusive as “computation”, although the controversies over the former have much longer tradition in the philosophical discourse. At the first sight the concept of natural computation may seem even more difficult to grasp and to formulate in a rigorous, consistent way. Computation, whatever would be its understanding, refers to the fundamental function of computers, the ultimate artefacts frequently associated with the “virtual reality” in the direct opposition to nature or “natural reality”. However, in spite of their symbolic artefactual role, computers are objects within natural reality and they are subject to the laws of nature. Moreover, computational character of many natural processes (e.g., in living organisms or in humans) is commonly recognized. Thus, the study of that what is natural and what is artificial in computation may help in the reevaluation of this distinction. Similarly, artificial intelligence became a commonly used expression and typically it does not generate objections. However, the problem of feasibility of artificial intelligence is in the core of the natural-artificial opposition. A closer look shows a surprising inconsistency in the distinction as the involvement of intelligence in a creative act defines artefacts, but creations of artificial intelligence seem to be natural products.

This apparently fundamental, dialectical opposition or distinction of the natural and the artificial is only one out of several present in diverse contexts in which the concept of natural computation appears. All of them are entangled with misconceptions, misunderstandings and equivocations, and all of them are worth an extensive philosophical reflection and analysis.
We invite contributions to the Special Issue “Natural Computation: Attempts in Reconciliation of Dialectic Oppositions” that address the wide range of oppositions or distinctions identifiable in philosophy, theory and practice of computation in the context of nature or natural processes. Contributions may address in addition to the opposition of the natural and artificial the following list of the oppositions, distinctions and related to them topics:

  • digital and analog computing;
  • computing with or in natural phenomena;
  • idealized (e.g., infinite memory) and realistic (e.g., finite memory) models of computation;
  • natural dynamical processes and their computational simulation;
  • modeling of natural systems with computation or computational simulation;
  • pancomputationalism vs. restricted dynamics of information in computation;
  • finitary vs. unrestricted methods (in logic, computation, mathematics, or other forms of inquiry);
  • nature/life inspired computation vs. computation based on manipulation of physical states;
  • computation in closed vs. open systems;
  • artificial vs. autonomous computation;
  • Church-Turing thesis vs. hypercomputing;
  • Turing machine equivalent models of computation vs. models with non-traditional architecture.


The list does not pretend to exhaust all dialectic oppositions and distinctions involved in the concept of natural computation. We also invite papers related to other aspects of natural computing, those clarifying the meaning of only one side of the oppositions or distinctions, and those which defend the impossibility of their reconciliation.

Subject of this Special Issue was the main theme of the 10th International Workshop on Natural Computing held in Akita, 14–15 May, 2016, and the papers presented at the workshop which were not published and are not considered for publication elsewhere are invited with the great anticipation of submission. However, the call is addressed to everyone interested in contributing to the discussion of the subject. In the agreement with the spirit of Philosophies, a journal seeking methods of synthesis uniting philosophy, science, and cultural inquiries, we invite papers of diverse styles from philosophical essays to philosophically oriented scientific articles including those of a moderate level of formalization comprehensible to non-specialists. The main criteria for acceptance are quality, originality, clarity and discipline of presentation, and relevance to the subject of the Special Issue.

Prof. Dr. Marcin J. Schroeder
Guest Editor

Submission

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Philosophies is an international peer-reviewed Open Access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. In addition to the formatting requirements of the journal, submitted manuscripts have to meet English language standards of academic publications. In case when the peer review or decision of the editor will deem the paper of high merit failing such standards and making otherwise valuable contribution unacceptable for publication, the author(s) will have an option to seek assistance in English correction or formatting provided by the publisher for the fee of 250 CHF (Swiss Francs). For the papers submitted to this Special Issue the Article Processing Charge (APC) will be waived, if the manuscript is accepted for publication and does not require any further assistance from the publisher.

Keywords

  • Natural computation
  • Natural vs. artificial
  • Conceptual conflicts in computation
  • Computation with or in natural processes
  • Digital and analog computation

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
The Algebraic View of Computation: Implementation, Interpretation and Time
Philosophies 2018, 3(2), 15; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies3020015 - 11 May 2018
Abstract
Computational implementations are special relations between what is computed and what computes it. Though the word “isomorphism” appears in philosophical discussions about the nature of implementations, it is used only metaphorically. Here we discuss computation in the precise language of abstract algebra. The [...] Read more.
Computational implementations are special relations between what is computed and what computes it. Though the word “isomorphism” appears in philosophical discussions about the nature of implementations, it is used only metaphorically. Here we discuss computation in the precise language of abstract algebra. The capability of emulating computers is the defining property of computers. Such a chain of emulation is ultimately grounded in an algebraic object, a full transformation semigroup. Mathematically, emulation is defined by structure preserving maps (morphisms) between semigroups. These are systematic, very special relationships, crucial for defining implementation. In contrast, interpretations are general functions with no morphic properties. They can be used to derive semantic content from computations. Hierarchical structure imposed on a computational structure plays a similar semantic role. Beyond bringing precision into the investigation, the algebraic approach also sheds light on the interplay between time and computation. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Computational Dynamics of Natural Information Morphology, Discretely Continuous
Philosophies 2017, 2(4), 23; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies2040023 - 12 Oct 2017
Cited by 2
Abstract
This paper presents a theoretical study of the binary oppositions underlying the mechanisms of natural computation understood as dynamical processes on natural information morphologies. Of special interest are the oppositions of discrete vs. continuous, structure vs. process, and differentiation vs. integration. The framework [...] Read more.
This paper presents a theoretical study of the binary oppositions underlying the mechanisms of natural computation understood as dynamical processes on natural information morphologies. Of special interest are the oppositions of discrete vs. continuous, structure vs. process, and differentiation vs. integration. The framework used is that of computing nature, where all natural processes at different levels of organisation are computations over informational structures. The interactions at different levels of granularity/organisation in nature, and the character of the phenomena that unfold through those interactions, are modeled from the perspective of an observing agent. This brings us to the movement from binary oppositions to dynamic networks built upon mutually related binary oppositions, where each node has several properties. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Category Theory Approach to Solution Searching Based on Photoexcitation Transfer Dynamics
Philosophies 2017, 2(3), 16; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies2030016 - 11 Jul 2017
Cited by 2
Abstract
Solution searching that accompanies combinatorial explosion is one of the most important issues in the age of artificial intelligence. Natural intelligence, which exploits natural processes for intelligent functions, is expected to help resolve or alleviate the difficulties of conventional computing paradigms and technologies. [...] Read more.
Solution searching that accompanies combinatorial explosion is one of the most important issues in the age of artificial intelligence. Natural intelligence, which exploits natural processes for intelligent functions, is expected to help resolve or alleviate the difficulties of conventional computing paradigms and technologies. In fact, we have shown that a single-celled organism such as an amoeba can solve constraint satisfaction problems and related optimization problems as well as demonstrate experimental systems based on non-organic systems such as optical energy transfer involving near-field interactions. However, the fundamental mechanisms and limitations behind solution searching based on natural processes have not yet been understood. Herein, we present a theoretical background of solution searching based on optical excitation transfer from a category-theoretic standpoint. One important indication inspired by the category theory is that the satisfaction of short exact sequences is critical for an adequate computational operation that determines the flow of time for the system and is termed as “short-exact-sequence-based time.” In addition, the octahedral and braid structures known in triangulated categories provide a clear understanding of the underlying mechanisms, including a quantitative indication of the difficulties of obtaining solutions based on homology dimension. This study contributes to providing a fundamental background of natural intelligence. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
A New Kind of Aesthetics —The Mathematical Structure of the Aesthetic
Philosophies 2017, 2(3), 14; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies2030014 - 30 Jun 2017
Abstract
This paper proposes a new approach to the investigation into aesthetics. Specifically, it~argues that it is possible to explain the aesthetic and its underlying dynamic relations with an~axiomatic structure (the octahedral axiom-derived category) based on contemporary mathematics (namely category theory), and through this [...] Read more.
This paper proposes a new approach to the investigation into aesthetics. Specifically, it~argues that it is possible to explain the aesthetic and its underlying dynamic relations with an~axiomatic structure (the octahedral axiom-derived category) based on contemporary mathematics (namely category theory), and through this argument suggests the possibility for discussion about the mathematical structure of the aesthetic. If there were a way to describe the structure of the aesthetic with the language of mathematical structures and mathematical axioms---a~language completely devoid of arbitrariness---then we would make possible a universal argument about the essential human activity of ``the aesthetic'', and we would also gain a new method and viewpoint into the philosophy and meaning of the act of creating a work of art and artistic activities. This paper presents one mathematical structure as a foundation in constructing the science of dynamic aesthetics based on axiomatic functionalism, which is in turn based on a new interdisciplinary investigation into the generative structure of the aesthetic. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Harnessing the Computational Power of Fluids for Optimization of Collective Decision Making
Philosophies 2016, 1(3), 245-260; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies1030245 - 07 Dec 2016
Cited by 6
Abstract
How can we harness nature’s power for computations? Our society comprises a collection of individuals, each of whom handles decision-making tasks that are abstracted as computational problems of finding the most profitable option from a set of options that stochastically provide rewards. Society [...] Read more.
How can we harness nature’s power for computations? Our society comprises a collection of individuals, each of whom handles decision-making tasks that are abstracted as computational problems of finding the most profitable option from a set of options that stochastically provide rewards. Society is expected to maximize the total rewards, while the individuals compete for common rewards. Such collective decision making is formulated as the “competitive multi-armed bandit problem (CBP).” Herein, we demonstrate an analog computing device that uses numerous fluids in coupled cylinders to efficiently solve CBP for the maximization of social rewards, without paying the conventionally-required huge computational cost. The fluids estimate the reward probabilities of the options for the exploitation of past knowledge, and generate random fluctuations for the exploration of new knowledge for which the utilization of the fluid-derived fluctuations is more advantageous than applying artificial fluctuations. The fluid-derived fluctuations, which require exponentially-many combinatorial efforts when they are emulated using conventional digital computers, would exhibit their maximal computational power when tackling classes of problems that are more complex than CBP. Extending the current configuration of the device would trigger further studies related to harnessing the huge computational power of natural phenomena to solve a wide variety of complex societal problems. Full article
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