, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 97–110 | Cite as

Does Computation Reveal Machine Cognition?

  • Prakash MondalEmail author


This paper seeks to understand machine cognition. The nature of machine cognition has been shrouded in incomprehensibility. We have often encountered familiar arguments in cognitive science that human cognition is still faintly understood. This paper will argue that machine cognition is far less understood than even human cognition despite the fact that a lot about computer architecture and computational operations is known. Even if there have been putative claims about the transparency of the notion of machine computations, these claims do not hold out in unraveling machine cognition, let alone machine consciousness (if there is any such thing). The nature and form of machine cognition remains further confused also because of attempts to explain human cognition in terms of computation and to model/simulate (aspects of) human cognitive processing in machines. Given that these problems in characterizing machine cognition persist, a view of machine cognition that aims to avoid these problems is outlined. The argument that is advanced is that something becomes a computation in machines only when a human interprets it, which is a kind of semiotic causation. From this it follows that a computing machine is not engaged in a computation unless a human interprets what it is doing; instead, it is engaged in machine cognition, which is defined as a member or subset of the set of all possible mappings of inputs to outputs. The human interpretation, which is a semiotic process, gives meaning to what a machine does, and then what it does becomes a computation.


Machine cognition Computation Human cognition Semiotic process Human interpretation 



I am thankful to one anonymous reviewer of this paper for making significant comments on certain issues dealt with in this paper, and for drawing my attention to some points that I overlooked.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Humanities and Social SciencesIndian Institute of Technology DelhiNew DelhiIndia

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