What is a digital state?

In Mark J. Bishop & Yasemin Erden (eds.), The Scandal of Computation - What is Computation? - AISB Convention 2013. AISB. pp. 11-16 (2013)
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There is much discussion about whether the human mind is a computer, whether the human brain could be emulated on a computer, and whether at all physical entities are computers (pancomputationalism). These discussions, and others, require criteria for what is digital. I propose that a state is digital if and only if it is a token of a type that serves a particular function - typically a representational function for the system. This proposal is made on a syntactic level, assuming three levels of description (physical, syntactic, semantic). It suggests that being digital is a matter of discovery or rather a matter of how we wish to describe the world, if a functional description can be assumed. Given the criterion provided and the necessary empirical research, we should be in a position to decide on a given system (e.g. the human brain) whether it is a digital system and can thus be reproduced in a different digital system (since digital systems allow multiple realization).

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Vincent C. Müller
Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg


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