Philosophy & Technology

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 399–421

What Is Nature-Like Computation? A Behavioural Approach and a Notion of Programmability

Special Issue

DOI: 10.1007/s13347-012-0095-2

Cite this article as:
Zenil, H. Philos. Technol. (2014) 27: 399. doi:10.1007/s13347-012-0095-2


The aim of this paper is to propose an alternative behavioural definition of computation (and of a computer) based simply on whether a system is capable of reacting to the environment—the input—as reflected in a measure of programmability. This definition is intended to have relevance beyond the realm of digital computers, particularly vis-à-vis natural systems. This will be done by using an extension of a phase transition coefficient previously defined in an attempt to characterise the dynamical behaviour of cellular automata and other systems. The transition coefficient measures the sensitivity of a system to external stimuli and will be used to define the susceptibility of a system to be (efficiently) programmed.


Natural computation Programmability Compressibility Philosophy of computation Turing universality Cellular automata 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut d’Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences et des Techniques (Paris 1/ENS Ulm/CNRS)ParisFrance
  2. 2.Department of Computer ScienceThe University of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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