Roles for morphology in computation
Centre for Cognitive Science/Department of Informatics, University of Sussex
9 June 2017
The morphological aspects of a system are the shape, geometry, placement and compliance properties of that system. On the rather permissive construal of computation as transformations of information, a correspondingly permissive notion of morphological computation can be defined: cases of information transformation performed by the morphological aspects of a system. This raises the question of what morphological computation might look like under different, less inclusive accounts of computation, such as the view that computation is essentially semantic. I investigate the possibilities for morphological computation under a particular version of the semantic view. First, I make a distinction between two kinds of role a given aspect might play in computations that a system performs: foreground role and background role. The foreground role of a computational system includes such things as rules, state, algorithm, program, bits, data, etc. But these can only function as foreground by virtue of other, background aspects of the same system: the aspects that enable the foreground to be brought forth, made stable/reidentifiable, and to have semantically coherent causal effect. I propose that this foreground/background distinction cross-cuts the morphological/non-morphological distinction. Specifically, morphological aspects of a system may play either role.
Cite this article as
Chrisley, R. Roles for morphology in computation.
In Proceedings of the DIGITALISATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY. Embodied, Embedded, Networked, Empowered through Information, Computation & Cognition!,
12–16 June 2017;
Ron Chrisley is Reader in Philosophy in the Department of Informatics (School of Engineering and Informatics) at the University of Sussex. He received a Bachelors of Science in Symbolic Systems, with honours and distinction, from Stanford University in 1987. He was an AI research assistant at Stanford, NASA, and Xerox PARC, and investigated neural networks for speech recognition as a Fulbright Scholar at the Helsinki University of Technology and at ATR Laboratories in Japan. In 1997 he received a DPhil in Philosophy from the University of Oxford, and in 1992 he took up a lectureship in Philosophy in the School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences at the University of Sussex. From 2001-2003 he was Leverhulme Research Fellow in Artificial Intelligence at the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham. And for over ten years he was an occasional visiting lecturer and researcher at the University of Skövde. Since 2003 he has been the director of the Centre for Cognitive Science (COGS) at the University of Sussex, where he is also on the faculty of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science.