Digital Biology. The very idea!
New York Times review of Peter Bentley’s new book.
“Bentley describes how Adrian Thompson, a British engineer, came up with a few dozen random arrangements of transistors and programmed a computer to test how well they did various jobs, like distinguishing between high-pitched and low-pitched tones. The first generation of chips always performed miserably, but some of them a little less miserably than the rest. The computer saved the less miserable designs and combined them into hybrids. In the process, it also sprinkled a few random changes into the designs, mutations if you will. A few offspring could distinguish between the tones slightly better than their parents — and they produced a third generation. By mimicking evolution for a few thousand rounds, the computer produced chips that did their job exquisitely well. But Thompson doesn’t quite know how they work. To understand them, he resorts to measuring the temperature of parts of the chips, like a neurologist using an M.R.I. scanner to probe a brain. ..”