What Cognitive Scientists Need to Know about Virtual Machines


Many people interact with a collection of man-made virtual machines (VMs) every day without reflecting on what that implies about options open to biological evolution, and the implications for relations between mind and body. This tutorial position paper introduces some of the roles different sorts of running VMs (e.g. single function VMs, "platform" VMs) can play in engineering designs, including "vertical separation of concerns" and suggests that biological evolution "discovered" problems that require VMs for their solution long before we did. This paper explains some of the unnoticed complexity involved in making artificial VMs possible, some of the implications for philosophical and cognitive theories about mind-brain supervenience and some options for design of cognitive architectures with self-monitoring and self-control.

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