, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 1-19

On Communication and Computation

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Abstract

Comparing technical notions of communication and computation leads to a surprising result, these notions are often not conceptually distinguishable. This paper will show how the two notions may fail to be clearly distinguished from each other. The most famous models of computation and communication, Turing Machines and (Shannon-style) information sources, are considered. The most significant difference lies in the types of state-transitions allowed in each sort of model. This difference does not correspond to the difference that would be expected after considering the ordinary usage of these terms. However, the natural usage of these terms are surprisingly difficult to distinguish from each other. The two notions may be kept distinct if computation is limited to actions within a system and communications is an interaction between a system and its environment. Unfortunately, this decision requires giving up much of the nuance associated with natural language versions of these important terms.