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Russ Abbott
California State University, Los Angeles
  1.  17
    The Bit (and Three Other Abstractions) Define the Borderline Between Hardware and Software.Russ Abbott - forthcoming - Minds and Machines:1-47.
    Modern computing is generally taken to consist primarily of symbol manipulation. But symbols are abstract, and computers are physical. How can a physical device manipulate abstract symbols? Neither Church nor Turing considered this question. My answer is that the bit, as a hardware-implemented abstract data type, serves as a bridge between materiality and abstraction. Computing also relies on three other primitive—but more straightforward—abstractions: Sequentiality, State, and Transition. These physically-implemented abstractions define the borderline between hardware and software and between physicality and (...)
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  2.  43
    What Makes Complex Systems Complex?Russ Abbott - 2018 - Journal on Policy and Complex Systems 4 (2):77-113.
    This paper explores some of the factors that make complex systems complex. We first examine the history of complex systems. It was Aristotle’s insight that how elements are joined together helps determine the properties of the resulting whole. We find (a) that scientific reductionism does not provide a sufficient explanation; (b) that to understand complex systems, one must identify and trace energy flows; and (c) that disproportionate causality, including global tipping points, are all around us. Disproportionate causality results from the (...)
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  3. Abstractions and Implementations.Russ Abbott - manuscript
    Fundamental to Computer Science is the distinction between abstractions and implementations. When that distinction is applied to various philosophical questions it yields the following conclusions. -/- • EMERGENCE. It isn’t as mysterious as it’s made out to be; the possibility of strong emergence is not a threat to science. -/- • INTERACTIONS BETWEEN HIGHER-LEVEL ENTITIES. Physical interaction among higher-level entities is illusory. Abstract interactions are the source of emergence, new domains of knowledge, and complex systems. -/- • PHYSICS and the (...)
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  4.  10
    Meaning, Autonomy, Symbolic Causality, and Free Will.Russ Abbott - 2018 - Review of General Psychology 22 (1):85-94.
    As physical entities that translate symbols into physical actions, computers offer insights into the nature of meaning and agency. • Physical symbol systems, generically known as agents, link abstractions to material actions. The meaning of a symbol is defined as the physical actions an agent takes when the symbol is encountered. • An agent has autonomy when it has the power to select actions based on internal decision processes. Autonomy offers a partial escape from constraints imposed by direct physical influences (...)
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  5. Causality, Computing, and Complexity.Russ Abbott - manuscript
    I discuss two categories of causal relationships: primitive causal interactions of the sort characterized by Phil Dowe and the more general manipulable causal relationships as defined by James Woodward. All primitive causal interactions are manipulable causal relationships, but there are manipulable causal relationships that are not primitive causal interactions. I’ll call the latter constructed causal relationships, and I’ll argue that constructed causal relationships serve as a foundation for both computing and complex systems. -/- Perhaps even more interesting are autonomous causal (...)
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