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Biological Computation: A View from Computer Science

From Santa Fe Institute Events Wiki

By Melanie Mitchell, Portland State University

Since the beginning of the computer age, the terms "information processing" and "computing" have been used to describe not only the actions of traditional, "von-Neumann-style" computers, but also the dynamics of biological systems, ranging from the brain to the immune system, cellular metabolism, and genetic regulation. It is becoming increasingly clear that, given the "non-von-Neumann" architectural features of these natural systems -- large and varying numbers of relatively simple, stochastic, and noisy components, limited, dynamic, and unreliable connections, and no central control -- these systems require a radically different model of information processing than the traditional one.
In this brief talk I will frame the problem of developing such a model by proposing several questions that I believe must be answered if a system is to be usefully described as "computing" or "processing information".

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