Representationalism, the original driving theory behind artificial intelligence and cognitive science, has fallen upon hard times. Representationalism identifies cognitive processes with the manipulation of explicit symbolic structures according to well-defined rules. Rocha and Hordijk put forward three requirements for something to qualify as a representation: dynamically incoherent memory, construction code, and self-organization; they also forsake the traditional idea of representation as a “standing-in ” relationship between a representation and its content. While we note that Rocha and Hordijk’s three requirements are an improvement over the definition of representation as a style of explanation, we argue that this “standing-in ” relationship is the defining characteristic of representations. We define representations as physically implemented structures that can create local effects that are effective by virtue of their correspondence with non-local parts of the world, and argue that this definition, while being perfectly natural, does present a difficult, although not insurmountable, challenge for artificial life
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