Abstract platforms of computation
Official URL: http://www.aisb.org.uk/asibpublications/convention...
Computational formalisms have been pushing the boundaries of the field of computing for the last 80 years and much debate has surrounded what computing entails; what it is, and what it is not. This paper seeks to explore the boundaries of the ideas of computation and provide a framework for enabling a constructive discussion of computational ideas. First, a review of computing is given, ranging from Turing Machines to interactive computing. Then, a variety of natural physical systems are considered for their computational qualities. From this exploration, a framework is presented under which all dynamical systems can be considered as instances of the class of abstract computational platforms. An abstract computational platform is defined by both its intrinsic dynamics and how it allows computation that is meaningful to an external agent through the configuration of constraints upon those dynamics. It is asserted that a platform’s computational expressiveness is directly related to the freedom with which constraints can be placed. Finally, the requirements for a formal constraint description language are considered and it is proposed that Abstract State Machines may provide a reasonable basis for such a language.