What is a computational constraint?

The paper argues that a computational constraint is one that appeals to control of computational resources in a computationalist explanation. Such constraints may arise in a theory and in its models. Instrumental use of the same concept is trivial because the constraining behavior of any function eventually reduces to its computation. Computationalism is not instrumentalism. Born-again computationalism, which is an ardent form of pancomputationalism, may need some soul searching about whether a genuinely computational explanation is necessary or needed in every domain, because the resources in a computationalist explanation are limited. Computational resources are the potential targets of computational constraints. They are representability, time, space, and, possibly, randomness, assuming that ‘BPP = BQP?’ question remains open. The first three are epitomized by the Turing machine, and manifest themselves for example in complexity theories. Randomness may be a genuine resource in quantum computing. From this perspective, some purported computational constraints may be instrumental, and some supposedly noncomputational or cognitivist constraints may be computational. Examples for both cases are provided. If pancomputationalism has instrumentalism in mind, then it may be a truism, therefore not very interesting, but born-again computationalism cannot be computationalism as conceived here.


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Citation Formats
H. C. Bozşahin, “What is a computational constraint?,” pp. 3–16, 2016, Accessed: 00, 2021. [Online]. Available: https://hdl.handle.net/11511/77506.