Software Musings

Turing’s Brain

Posted on: 03/04/2007

I’m in a new world. A colleague recommended that I read Jerry Fodor’s book the mind doesn’t work that way (all in lower case). It’s subtitled the scope and limits of computational psychology, a subject about which I knew nothing.

I skimmed the book to get the main flavour of the argument and then started again (it’s a short book: 100 pages plus notes, bibliography and index). In parallel I read Daniel A. Weiskopf’s paper from Philosophical Psychology, volume 15, number 4: “A critical review of Jerry A. Fodor’s The mind doesn’t work that way” (this time with a captial T on The).

Although this is an alien land for me, I’ve a simple question to ask someone. Someone who reads this blog would be great. When Fodor and Weiskopf write about the Computational Theory of the Mind (or CTM as they succinctly put it) they assume a Turing model of computation. Now, as I say, I’m in a foreign land here and perhaps this was all settled many years ago in papers lying unread by me, but why assume that the brain has limited itself to a Turing model of computation? There are many other models, for example the analogue neural networks that Hava Siegelmann demonstrated are non-Turing.

Certainly the non-Turing, Extended Analogue Computers created by Jonathan Mills at the University of Indiana with which I have experimented have seemed closer to brain computation (my brain computation anyway) than the very artificial Turing machine.

This is such an obvious point that I will surely stumble across the answer tomorrow but, to put me out of my misery, why do Fodor and Weiskopf assume a Turing model of computation? I hope that it’s not just computational convenience. I remember those queueing theory papers I use to read all those years ago that contained the sentence “Assume interarrival intervals to be negative-exponentially distributed”. Further down the paper one found that this was not because the interarrival intervals were so distributed, just that that was the only way the mathematics could be made to work out.

I hope that that’s not the case here.


1 Response to "Turing’s Brain"

[…] about in Jerry Fodor’s book, the mind doesn’t work that way—mentioned in a previous posting to this […]

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April 2007
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The author of this blog used to be an employee of Nortel. Even when he worked for Nortel the views expressed in the blog did not represent the views of Nortel. Now that he has left, the chances are even smaller that his views match those of Nortel.
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