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Communication Dans Un Congrès Année : 2021

Modelling Interactive Computing Systems: Do We Have a Good Theory of What Computers Are?

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Alice Martin
Mathieu Magnaudet
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Computers are more and more interactive. They are no more transformational systems producing a final output after a finite execution. Instead, they continuously react in time to external events that modify their course of execution. While philosophers have been interested in conceptualizing what a computer is for a long time, they seem to have paid little attention to the specificities of interactive computing, thus running the risk of not offering an adequate conceptualisation. In this paper, we propose to tackle this issue by a survey of the literature in theoretical computer science where one can find some explicit proposals toward a model for interactive computing. In that field, the formal modelling of interactive computing systems has been brought down to whether the new interaction models are reducible to Turing Machines (TMs). To our knowledge, there are three areas where interaction models are framed. In all of them the comparison between TMs, oracle machines and interactive system models is systematically at stake. These areas are namely work (i) on concurrency by Milner and his followers, (ii) on Reactive Turing Machines and (iii) on interaction as a new computing paradigm. For each of the three identified models, we present the motivation behind it, sum up its account for interaction (its expressiveness and possible equivalence with a TM), identify how it has been used and criticized. The survey shows two difficulties. First, Turing reducibility of interaction models is left unclear. Second, such analyses only focus on formal equivalence between models. They prevent the philosopher from getting a clear-cut comprehension of what makes a computing machine interactive. We suggest another path for philosophers : the view of computing from a cyber-physics perspective, where key concepts of time and causality help fleshing out the concept of interactive computing. This amounts to switching explanatory focus.
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hal-03526402 , version 1 (28-01-2022)


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Alice Martin, Mathieu Magnaudet. Modelling Interactive Computing Systems: Do We Have a Good Theory of What Computers Are?. Philosophy in Informatics VI Conference — 16-17th December, 2021 Frontiers of philosophy of computing and information, Faculty of Administration and Social Sciences, Warsaw University of Technology, Dec 2021, Warsaw, Poland. ⟨hal-03526402⟩
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