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December 27, 2008

Programming Molecular Computers

The field of "molecular computing" seeks to make computers constructed from individual molecules.  Kirk L. Kroeker reports on a variety of recent advances in molecular computing in the most recent issue of the Communications of the ACM.

Of particular interest to readers of this blog is that Caltech Professor Niles Pierce and his colleages "are working on the algorithms needed to create what he calls 'a compiler for molecular computing' that will take as input a high-level abstraction of the desired function for a molecular system and produce as output molecular sequences that can be synthesized to execute the function in a test tube or cell."  This transformation of high-level abstraction into a concrete description of a physical structure that embodies the abstraction is what I refer to as "the fundamental structure of a wish" in The Genie in the Machine.  The description of the high-level abstraction is like a wish and the computer that transforms the abstraction into a molecular sequence is like a genie that grants the wish.  The history of computer science demonstrates the power of this paradigm, which is why every time a new kind of physical computing device emerges, we see efforts to create artificial genies for use with the new computing device.

Posted by Robert at December 27, 2008 10:00 AM
category: Design & Engineering


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