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Levels of Functional Equivalence in Reverse Bioengineering: The Darwinian Turing Test for Artificial Life

Levels of Functional Equivalence in Reverse Bioengineering: The Darwinian Turing Test for Artificial Life
Levels of Functional Equivalence in Reverse Bioengineering: The Darwinian Turing Test for Artificial Life
Both Artificial Life and Artificial Mind are branches of what Dennett has called "reverse engineering": Ordinary engineering attempts to build systems to meet certain functional specifications, reverse bioengineering attempts to understand how systems that have already been built by the Blind Watchmaker work. Computational modelling (virtual life) can capture the formal principles of life, perhaps predict and explain it completely, but it can no more be alive than a virtual forest fire can be hot. In itself, a computational model is just an ungrounded symbol system; no matter how closely it matches the properties of what is being modelled, it matches them only formally, with the mediation of an interpretation. Synthetic life is not open to this objection, but it is still an open question how close a functional equivalence is needed in order to capture life. Close enough to fool the Blind Watchmaker is probably close enough, but would that require molecular indistinguishability, and if so, do we really need to go that far?
293-301
Harnad, Stevan
442ee520-71a1-4283-8e01-106693487d8b
Harnad, Stevan
442ee520-71a1-4283-8e01-106693487d8b

Harnad, Stevan (1994) Levels of Functional Equivalence in Reverse Bioengineering: The Darwinian Turing Test for Artificial Life. Artificial Life, 1 (3), 293-301.

Record type: Article

Abstract

Both Artificial Life and Artificial Mind are branches of what Dennett has called "reverse engineering": Ordinary engineering attempts to build systems to meet certain functional specifications, reverse bioengineering attempts to understand how systems that have already been built by the Blind Watchmaker work. Computational modelling (virtual life) can capture the formal principles of life, perhaps predict and explain it completely, but it can no more be alive than a virtual forest fire can be hot. In itself, a computational model is just an ungrounded symbol system; no matter how closely it matches the properties of what is being modelled, it matches them only formally, with the mediation of an interpretation. Synthetic life is not open to this objection, but it is still an open question how close a functional equivalence is needed in order to capture life. Close enough to fool the Blind Watchmaker is probably close enough, but would that require molecular indistinguishability, and if so, do we really need to go that far?

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Published date: 1994
Additional Information: Reprinted in: C.G. Langton (Ed.). Artificial Life: An Overview. MIT Press 1995.
Organisations: Web & Internet Science

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Local EPrints ID: 253363
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/253363
PURE UUID: 4ad6cd5d-5d67-42cd-9be5-ead7089d7173
ORCID for Stevan Harnad: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-6153-1129

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Date deposited: 25 May 2000
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 09:58

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Author: Stevan Harnad ORCID iD

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