PHILOSOPHY AND COMPUTER SCIENCE WORKSHOP
Philosophy And Computer Science
Peter Millican (Oxford University and National University of Singapore)
Computer Science and Philosophy are related in numerous ways. Perhaps most obviously, both share a deep interest in logic and formal systems, while the development of artificial intelligence raises a host of philosophical issues about the nature of the mind and its capacities (e.g. perception, reason, freedom, responsibility), and facilitates the study of such capacities - both theoretically and practically - in ways that would previously have been impossible. Computer modelling also hugely extends the feasible range of thought experiments, a favorite tool of philosophical analysis, and makes these more rigorous by enforcing algorithmic discipline. On a more practical level, the massive impact of computers on society has raised many new and increasingly urgent ethical issues, making it more important than ever that our universities are able to produce thinkers who both understand these new technologies and are able to reflect appropriately on their implications. However, there is a serious cultural barrier here, because Philosophy is commonly seen as diametrically opposed to Computer Science within educational systems. But in fact many of the aptitudes required for the two disciplines are similar, and where they differ, students can only benefit from developing this wider range of skills and understanding.
Response: Jing Zhu (Xiamen University)
Philosophy Through Computer Science
Paul Thagard (University of Waterloo)
Computer science can contribute to philosophy through the methodology of computer simulation, ideas about computational complexity, and implications for questions in epistemology and metaphysics. A central debate in current epistemology is whether inductive inference is better construed as based on probabilities or based on coherence. Probabilistic inference can be simulated using Bayesian networks, and coherentist inference can be simulated using neural networks. Comparison of these simulations yields insights into the feasibility of both approaches. Considerations of computational complexity provide another basis for comparison and assessment.
Computer science has been relevant to the metaphysics of mind since the 1960s when Putnam’s functionalism claimed that thinking is only a matter of software and that hardware is irrelevant. This view is challenged by recent developments in machine learning and neuromorphic computing that show that energy requirements make functionalism implausible. Another live metaphysical question is whether we inhabit the reality that we seem to experience or whether there is a good chance that we are living in a computer simulation. Computational considerations make this simulation hypothesis implausible.
Response: Yingjin Xu (Fudan University)
Philosophy Of Computer Science
Corey Maley (University of Kansas)
Computer science is unique among the sciences because it straddles the line between natural and artificial, between mathematical and concrete. Computation is a formal, mathematical subject with well developed theory; it is also what we build certain machines to accomplish; and it is also what neuroscientists and psychologists believe natural objects, such as brains and neural systems, engage in. Given these facts, it is important to be clear about what the theory of computation does and does not tell us about computation in the physical world. I will discuss why the mathematical theory of computation tells us virtually nothing about which objects are computers, or compute, in the first place, and thus why the philosophy of computer science should be taken seriously by all researchers who take computation seriously.
Response: Renjie Yang (Capital Normal University)
Organizer: Daniel Lim (Duke Kunshan University)
This event was made possible through a generous grant from the Center for Philosophy and Cognitive Science at Renmin University of China.