Dr Nir Fresco

Reserch Fellow

PhD, Philosophy

Edelstein Center for the History and Philosophy of Science, Technology and Medicine

Hebrew University


Research Interests

The aim of my research is to better understand — from informational and computational perspectives — how information processing contributes to our cognitive life. Claims that cognitive processing is (some form of) computation or information processing are very common in cognitive science. Claims to the contrary state that cognition does not involve computation (or representation). But to make sense of these claims we first need to understand the explanatory roles computation and information play in cognitive science . In Physical Computation and Cognitive Science (2014), I attempt to give an adequate account of digital computation that does justice to both computer science and cognitive science.

Presently, my research focuses on understanding what information is in the context of understanding animal cognition.​ We use information everyday in learning, planning, reasoning, decision-making and actively exploring and orientating in the environment. There is broad agreement that, in a sense, cognition involves the processing of information, and, indeed, many theories of cognition explain cognitive phenomena information-theoretically. Information could mean different things, and it is not always clear which of the many concepts of ‘information’ is the one relevant to understanding the nature of human cognition. How should information be understood, then, in order to support information processing theories of cognition? On some views, information is probabilistic in nature and can be false, whereas on other views, it must be true (roughly, correspond to some state of affairs). Some theories focus on the flow of information as a linguistic phenomenon. Other theories attempt to understand information more broadly as conveyed by data or signals. Recently, together with Eva Jablonka and Simona Ginsburg I have developed a conceptual framework of functional information that allows us to move from a theory of information to a theory of animal cognition.

Another ongoing project, ‘Information Ethics of Emerging Technologies’, aims to analyse – using Information Ethics – ethical challenges arising from new emerging technologies. The introduction of many emerging technologies seems to suggest a future where information processing, and computation in particular, is increasingly integrated with the human condition. Even the current emerging technology of 3D bioprinting allows “artificially” produced tissues and organs to be implanted in human subjects. For example, a biopen, which uses hydrogel to hold biological cells, allows surgeons to design customised orthopaedic implants at the time of surgery. Of course, different kinds of technology give rise to a variety of ethical dilemmas, some of which may overlap. So, this ongoing project targets specific information-driven technologies, such as 3D bioprinting and nanobots inserted to the human body, and offers ethical calculuses of these technologies by focusing on their informational features.

Upcoming Events

The 2016 Annual International Workshop on the History and Philosophy of Science–
Information & Information- ​Processing and their Role in Science: Physics, Biology and ​Cognitive ​& Brain Sciences​. ​

(A Research Workshop of the Israel Science Foundation)​. ​
May 30-June 2, Tel Aviv & Jerusalem.

Recent Events

Workshop Announcement: Information and the Cognitive Sciences June 29, @The Hebrew University

Discussion Groups

The Predictive Brain

Recent Publications

Preprints are available for download as PDF here.


  1. Physical Computation and Cognitive Science (2014) Volume 12 in Springer-Verlag Book Series ‘Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics’.

Journal Articles

  1. Forthcoming. (with McGivern, P. and Ghose, A.) Information, Veridicality and Inferential Knowledge. American Philosophical Quarterly.
  2. 2015. ​(with Michaelis Michael). ​Information and Veridicality: Information-Processing and the Bar-Hillel/Carnap Paradox. Philosophy of Science.​ Online
  3. 2015. Information-how. Australasian Journal of Philosophy. DOI: 10.1080/00048402.2015.1022561.Online. PrePrint
  4. 2014. (with Floridi, L. and Primiero, G.). On malfunctioning software. Synthese. doi: 10.1007/s11229-014-0610-3.Online
  5. 2014. Objective Computation versus Subjective Computation. Erkenntnis. doi: 10.1007/s10670-014-9696-8. Online
  6. 2014. (with Staines, P. J.) A Revised Attack on Computational Ontology. Minds and Machines, 24, pp. 101-122. DOI: 10.1007/s11023-013-9327-1. Online. (Erratum)
  7. 2014. (with Wolf, M. J.) The instructional information processing account of digital computation, Synthese, 191, pp. 1469-1492. DOI: 10.1007/s11229-013-0338-5. Online
  8. 2013. (with Primiero, G.) “Miscomputation“, Philosophy and Technology. Volume 26, pp 253-272. DOI: 10.1007/s13347-013-0112-0. Online
  9. 2013. “Information Processing as an Account of Concrete Digital Computation”, Philosophy and Technology, Volume 26, pp 31-60. DOI: 10.1007/s13347-011-0061-4. Online
  10. 2013. A reply to comments: “Instructional Information Processing: Replies Considered”, Volume 26, pp 71-72. DOI: 10.1007/s13347-012-0072-9. Online
  11. 2012. “The Explanatory Role of Computation in Cognitive Science”, Minds and Machines, Vol. 22, pp. 353-380. DOI: 10.1007/s11023-012-9286-y. Online
  12. 2011. “Concrete Digital Computation: What Does it Take for a Physical System to Compute?”. Journal of Logic, Language and Information, Vol. 20, pp. 513-537. DOI: 10.1007/s10849-011-9147-8. Online
  13. 2010. “Explaining Computation Without Semantics: Keeping It Simple”. Minds and Machines, Vol. 20, pp.165–181. DOI: 10.1007/s11023-010-9199-6. Online
  14. 2010. “A Computational Account of Connectionist Networks”. Recent Patents on Computer Science, Vol. 3, pp. 20-27. Online
  15. 2008. “An Analysis of the Criteria for Evaluating Adequate Theories of Computation”. Minds and Machines, Vol. 18, pp. 379-401. DOI: 10.1007/s11023-008-9111-9. Online


Conference Proceeding Papers

  1. Forthcoming. (with Wolf, M. J.) My Liver is Broken, Can You Print Me a New One?. In V. C. Müller (Ed.), Fundamental Issues of Artificial Intelligence (Synthese Library). Springer. Berlin, Germany.
  2. 2014. (with Wolf, M. J.) ‘Sploits for Sale! And that just might be ethical. In Proceedings of Ethicomp 2014. Paris, France.
  3. 2013. “A Critical Survey of Some Competing Accounts of Concrete Digital Computation”, Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence (Solomonoff Festschrift), 7070, pp. 155-173.
  4. 2011. “Digital computation as information processing”, AISB 2011: Computing and Philosophy, pp. 58-64. AISB Conference Proceedings

Book Chapters

  1. Forthcoming. (With Wolf, M.J.) “Information processing and Instructional Information”, in Luciano Floridi (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Information. Routledge.
  2. 2013. (with Primiero, G.) “Computation”, in Phyllis Illari (Ed.), The philosophy of information: a simple introduction.