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Nothing Makes Sense in Computing Except in the Light of Evolution
Tommaso Toffoli

Most work on computation deals with its structural aspects—what it is composed of, how the individual elements work in isolation and how they are connected to one another, how best they can be implemented by a physical systems, etc.—in sum, it concerns itself with a proximate account of computation’s mechanisms. We argue that, though that kind of work is of course indispensable, computation cannot be understood or even properly defined if it is not placed in the context of the evolutionary feedback loop that brought it into being and continually monitors its adaptive fitness with respect to its ultimate goals within the organism that employs it. Far from treating it as an optional, somewhat marginal activity, this viewpoint assigns to unconventional computing a fundamental role in the above evolutionary process, namely, to generate and support through their initial stages those variations—those experiments and explorations—that will then be evaluated by evolution’s differential-survival engine.

Keywords: Computation, evolution, adaptive advantage, dissipation, intentional stance, computation as adaptive trait

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