‘The Action of the Brain’. Machine Models and Adaptive Functions in Turing and Ashby

In Vincent Müller (ed.), Philosophy and theory of artificial intelligence 2017. Berlin, Germany: Springer. pp. 24-35 (2018)
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Given the personal acquaintance between Alan M. Turing and W. Ross Ashby and the partial proximity of their research fields, a comparative view of Turing’s and Ashby’s work on modelling “the action of the brain” (letter from Turing to Ashby, 1946) will help to shed light on the seemingly strict symbolic/embodied dichotomy: While it is clear that Turing was committed to formal, computational and Ashby to material, analogue methods of modelling, there is no straightforward mapping of these approaches onto symbol-based AI and embodiment-centered views respectively. Instead, it will be demonstrated that both approaches, starting from a formal core, were at least partly concerned with biological and embodied phenomena, albeit in revealingly distinct ways.
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