So what does computation have to do with the mind, anyway? Part 1

One of the major themes of this blog is going to be computation and the mind, so I thought I'd write up a couple posts talking about what computation has to say about cognition. There are really two claims here. The first claim is that cognition is related to computation; perhaps some kinds of cognitive behavior is an approximation to particular computer programs, or are solving a problem that is best posed in computational terms. The second claim is that cognition is computation, or at least a good approximation to it. This is clearly a much stronger claim.

I might talk about the second claim at some point, but this post is more about the first (if you want to explore the second claim, have a look at John Searle's famous Chinese Room argument; I disagree with the argument, but it's a nice point of entry to the discussion). What could computation have to say about cognition? How could computational models say anything about cognition without asserting the second claim?

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On "Brain Uploading"

PZ Myers posted yesterday about problems with this idea of "brain uploading". Basically, "brain uploading" is this theoretical technology wherein people would be able to obtain immortality and/or superhuman intelligence by replicating the structure of their brain on a computer. Proponents say it should work because they believe the "computational theory of mind," which states that minds just are computational activity. "Brain uploading" is supposed to be implemented by cutting a brain into very thin slices, scanning those slices with some kind of high-resolution microscope, and then reconstructing the structure of the brain in a software program that emulates how neurons work. Since we take the computational theory of mind for granted, and since the brain is what runs the computer program of the mind, this should be sufficient to resurrect an exact copy of the mind that had been previously run on the brain.

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First post

I'm currently working on a PhD in Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. I'm interested in human languages, especially from a computational perspective. A lot of posts here will talk about language. I'm hoping for this to be a place for me to step away from the details of my work and work through some of the more "big picture" aspects of computational psycholinguistics and computational cognitive science.

I'm also a free and open source software enthusiast, so there will probably be some posts about cool tricks I've learned about. I use arch linux on my laptop and desktop, and cyanogenmod 9 on my tablet.

I expect to stay away from politics unless I have something really great and novel to say.

Well, that's all for now.

jkpate