Is biocomputing > computing?

But the description of brain states, or the biology of a flower, are descriptions, not experiences. The descriptions are not conscious, and don’t actually experience anything. What puts the ‘fire in the equations’?Bruce Kellett

The BioComputing Phenomenology Thesis (BCPT)

The programs of biocomputing have a phenomenological semantics in addition to the kinds of informational semantics — e.g., denotational, operational, axiomatic — of the programs of conventional computing. That is: Bioprograms phenomenally experience themselves and their environment as biological beings.

It could make an interesting story. Two robots: One – made incorporating synthetic biology – processes electrochemicals as our brains do, the other one made with only non-biological materials. According to BCPT, the first one could “feel” but the second one only fake it.

How could BCPT hold? While consciousness is material, the particular material (chemical substrate) used in making something having it is critical.

A purely “informational” computing model of consciousness would be insufficient. Biocomputing, incorporating a phenomenological semantics in addition to informational semantics, is required.

Also, BCPT defeats Searle’s Chinese Room Argument: Searle may be right in arguing purely informational (“symbol-manipulation”) or linguistic computing is insufficient for full-blown AI (consciousness), but he does not consider substrative (biological) computing. (cf. substrative vs. linguistic compiler)

This is a common confusion expressed by those arguing against material consciousness:

“If (A) carbon-based neurons can’t be replaced by silicon analogues then (B) materialism is false.”

But (A) can be true and (B) false: Consciousness is material, but its presence in an assembly of matter is dependent on the particular materials* that make up that assembly.

* Unless a sort of silicon-to-carbon alchemy can take place.



There are the first programming languages for biological assemblies. New coding languages with a phenomenological semantics will be a new class of programming languages, with programs that are turned by biocompilers into objects that can feel.


Note: Max Tegmark holds (Consciousness as a State of Matter: that “consciousness can be understood as a state of matter, ‘perceptronium’, with distinctive information processing abilities.” I agree that consciousness is material (biomaterial, in fact), but I think there is – in addition to informational processing – phenomenological processing.


  4. “Intentionality, information, and experience”
  5. “Phenomenological-semantic investigations into incompleteness”
  6. Insights of “living body”: towards a biological phenomenology
  7. Neurophenomenology
  8. Maurice Merleau-Ponty (on “Corporeity”)
  9. Material Phenomenology, Michel Henry


Philip Thrift


One thought on “Is biocomputing > computing?”

  1. “Bioprograms phenomenally experience themselves and their environment as biological beings.” I will show that all programs that have the body distinct from environment and the model of self (i.e., the consciousness), experience themselves in their environment as autonomous beings.


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