Philosophy & Technology

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 31–60

Information Processing as an Account of Concrete Digital Computation

Target Article

DOI: 10.1007/s13347-011-0061-4

Cite this article as:
Fresco, N. Philos. Technol. (2013) 26: 31. doi:10.1007/s13347-011-0061-4


It is common in cognitive science to equate computation (and in particular digital computation) with information processing. Yet, it is hard to find a comprehensive explicit account of concrete digital computation in information processing terms. An information processing account seems like a natural candidate to explain digital computation. But when ‘information’ comes under scrutiny, this account becomes a less obvious candidate. Four interpretations of information are examined here as the basis for an information processing account of digital computation, namely Shannon information, algorithmic information, factual information and instructional information. I argue that any plausible account of concrete computation has to be capable of explaining at least the three key algorithmic notions of input, output and procedures. Whist algorithmic information fares better than Shannon information, the most plausible candidate for an information processing account is instructional information.


Concrete digital computation Turing machines Algorithmic information Shannon information Factual information Instructional information Cognitive science Algorithm Program 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of History and PhilosophyUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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