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Analog Computation and Representation

by   Corey J. Maley, et al.
The University of Kansas

Relative to digital computation, analog computation has been neglected in the philosophical literature. To the extent that attention has been paid to analog computation, it has been misunderstood. The received view – that analog computation has to do essentially with continuity – is simply wrong, as shown by careful attention to historical examples of discontinuous, discrete analog computers. Instead of the received view, I develop an account of analog computation in terms of a particular type of analog representation that allows for discontinuity. This account thus characterizes all types of analog computation, whether continuous or discrete. Furthermore, the structure of this account can be generalized to other types of computation: analog computation essentially involves analog representation, whereas digital computation essentially involves digital representation. Besides being a necessary component of a complete philosophical understanding of computation in general, understanding analog computation is important for computational explanation in contemporary neuroscience and cognitive science.


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