What do people mean when they say “computational x”?

Inman started off a discussion in the CCNR mailing list after Emails announcing two new Journals: Computational Intelligence and Neuroscience, and Cognitive Computation. He wonders what is meant by computation in those titles, and provides four possible options:

(A) That subset of intelligence we display when we are doing computations, in Turing’s sense of the word. I.e. when we are following explicit algorithms, such as doing long division. I.e. ‘computational’ limits the domain of intelligence being studied.

(B) Studying intelligence (not so limited) with the working assumption that the brain is some form of computer. I.e. using a computer and computations as a model for the brain.

(C) Studying intelligence (not so limited) in ways that make the use of computers a practical tool, allowing types of studies unavailable (or more difficult) without their assistance. I.e. using computers as tools.

or indeed (D) any further variation you might propose.

At least two people in the post have suggested most people mean the same thing.

With his permission, I have converted Inman’s Email into a poll. I have made three different ones. I think the term that follows “computation” might change the results.

The idea of the poll is, of course, not to sort out the mess by popular vote. I’d like to see if – as some suggest – one of the options is indeed the most common answer throughout (but also because I really wanted to test the poll tool).



Thanks for voting! And importantly, if you voted for the option “other”, then please tell us what you mean.


2 thoughts on “What do people mean when they say “computational x”?

  1. So, you are saying you think the answer is C (computers as tools) for all of the options, computational intelligence, computational cognition, as well as computational neuroscience. Right?

    I would have thought that would be the most common answer as well. But, and that was precisely the point of this small exercise, there really isn’t an overwhelming consensus on how people use that term.

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