Are Brains Computers, Emulators or Simulators?

  • Xerxes D. ArsiwallaEmail author
  • Camilo M. Signorelli
  • Jordi-Ysard Puigbo
  • Ismael T. Freire
  • Paul F. M. J. Verschure
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10928)


There has been intense debate on the question of whether the brain is a computer. If so, that challenge is to show that all cognitive processes can be described by algorithms running on a universal Turing machine. By extension that implies consciousness is a computational process. Both Penrose and Searle have vehemently argued against this view, proposing that consciousness is a fundamentally non-computational process [10]. Even proponents of the brain as a computer metaphor such a Dennett agree that the organizational architecture of the brain is unlike any computing system ever conceived, possibly alluding to non-classical computational processes [6]. The latter class of processes veer away from any program that can be encoded by Church’s lambda calculus. In fact, such a program would have to be based on non-classical logic (either semi-classical or quantum). But quantum logic or machines that might implement them typically are not meant for solving the same type of problems that a classical computer solves (nor are they necessarily faster for any given problem). We will argue that machines implementing non-classical logic might be better suited for simulation rather than computation (a la Turing). It is thus reasonable to pit simulation as an alternative to computation and ask whether the brain, rather than computing, is simulating a model of the world in order to make predictions and guide behavior. If so, this suggests a hardware supporting dynamics more akin to a quantum many-body field theory.


Consciousness Godel’s theorems Computation Non-classical logic 



This work is supported by the European Research Council’s CDAC project: “The Role of Consciousness in Adaptive Behavior: A Combined Empirical, Computational and Robot based Approach”, (ERC-2013- ADG 341196).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xerxes D. Arsiwalla
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
    Email author
  • Camilo M. Signorelli
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • Jordi-Ysard Puigbo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ismael T. Freire
    • 2
  • Paul F. M. J. Verschure
    • 2
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Universitat Pompeu FabraBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Institute for BioEngineering of CataloniaBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  4. 4.Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit, INSERMGif-sur-YvetteFrance
  5. 5.Barcelona Institue of Science and TechnologyBarcelonaSpain
  6. 6.Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA)BarcelonaSpain

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