NYU (US)—Nature and technology may seem worlds apart, but a new book argues that the natural world can bolster the capacity of today’s most sophisticated machines.

Dennis Shasha, professor of computer science at New York University, describes instances of how nature’s power has been harnessed for advancing technology in a new book, In Natural Computing: DNA, Quantum Bits, and the Future of Smart Machines.

Increasingly complex processors and software have been utilized to overcome increasingly complex problems, but what happens when technology reaches the cognitive limits of the designers?

Instead of trying to design for all scenarios, engineers are designing intelligent machines that synthesize and adapt to the world in which they operate.

Natural computing has started to yield machines that exceed the capability of traditional technologies, the authors write.

Taking inspiration from life, scientists have learned how to create robots that move intelligently on Mars, spacecrafts that can heal themselves, and even methods to trade successfully on Wall Street—all through an increased understanding of how evolutionary ideas can aid in solving fundamentally non-algorithmic problems.

“If you want a device that will repair skin, bones, or arteries,” the authors explain, “it makes far more sense to build the device out of DNA, viruses, or cells, than to build it out of electronics.”

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