CFP: The 6th AISB Symposium on Computing and Philosophy: The Scandal of Computation – What is Computation?

The 6th AISB Symposium on Computing and Philosophy: The Scandal of Computation – What is Computation?.

April 2 – 5th 2013
University of Exeter, Exeter, UK

As part of the AISB Annual Convention 2013

Organised by the Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour (AISB)




What is computation? Society builds and uses millions of computers each year so at first sight the answer seems trivial. A computer is merely a general purpose, typically electronic device, that can be programmed to carry out a finite set of arithmetic or logical operations. These days they announce their ubiquity to the world in phones, desktop devices, washing machines, even lawn mowers.

Historically, however, the etymology of the word (from the OED) informs us that the notion of computation was identified with the action of humans who make calculations, often with the aid of calculating machines. In the 1940s this definition was refined with that of an “effective method” (a procedure that reduces the solution of problems to a series of rote steps which is bound to give the correct answer in finite time for all possible inputs), to yield the notion of the algorithm an effective method for calculating the values of a function and the notion of the effective calculability of functions with an effective method (algorithmic solution). In this way, the notion of computation came to be identified with the actions [steps] carried out by [automated] computers to produce definite outputs [in finite time]. This notion frames computation in terms of an agent, which raises the questions of what computation is per se – merely the dynamics of information flow? And in this scenario, how can computational data be meaningful? How can meaningful data acquire truth-values?

For a long time our ideas about computations (or about the underlying computational models) were more or less rigid, fixed, established in the middle of the twentieth century. In the centre there was the model of a classical Turing machine, with its scenario of a finite computation defining a fixed mapping from the inputs to the outputs. The computations of Turing machines served as a means for defining the complexity of computations, the notion of the universality of computations, and the notion of computability (historically, the lastly mentioned three notions should have been listed in a reversed order). Nevertheless, with the advent of modern computing technologies, networking, and advances in physics and biology, has emerged the ideas that computation is a far broader, far more common, and more complex phenomenon than that modelled by Turing machines. It has been increasingly more difficult to see newly emerging models of computations through the optics of Turing machine computations. Examples include biologically inspired models—such as neural nets, DNA computing, self-assembled structures, molecular computers, cognitive computing, brain computing, swarm computing, etc., or physically inspired models, such as quantum computing, relativistic computers, hyper-computers, and, last but not least, “technologically enabled” models, with the prominent example of the Internet, but also various (also mobile) networks.

In this symposium we hope to address these and other key issues related to the “scandal of computation”.


Submissions must be full papers and should be sent via EasyChair:

Text editor templates from a previous convention can be found at:

We request that submitted papers are limited to eight pages. Each paper will receive at least two reviews. Selected papers will be published in the general proceedings of the AISB Convention, with the proviso that at least ONE author attends the symposium in order to present the paper and participate in general symposium activities.


i. Full paper submission deadline: 14 January 2013
ii. Notification of acceptance/rejection decisions: 11 February 2013
iii. Final versions of accepted papers (Camera ready copy): 4 March 2013
iv. Convention: 2-5 April 2013 [confirmation of symposium dates tbc]