I want to say computation realized by biological systems themselves. I'm not talking about bio-inspired algorithms, or applications in computation using living systems. This question is more about an empirical theory of computation in the natural world than applications of biological systems in the industry of the computation.

Reference: MITCHELL, Melanie. Biological Computation.

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    $\begingroup$ What exactly you mean when you ask if it is a problem of TCS? $\endgroup$
    – ivmihajlin
    Dec 6, 2017 at 1:22
  • $\begingroup$ I was wondering if this topic is covered by theoretical computer science. Or if the themes of TCS are more abstract than issues of empirical theory. Sorry for not being clear, I'll change the question. $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2017 at 1:59

4 Answers 4


Yes there is some overlap, for instance the conference Unconventional Computation and Natural Computation (UCNC) covers theoretical computer science topics related to biological computation.

From the call for papers, UCNC topics of interest include (but are not restricted to):

  • Molecular computing
  • Quantum computing
  • Optical computing
  • Chaos computing
  • Physarum computing
  • Collision-based computing
  • Self-assembling and self-organizing systems
  • Super-Turing computation
  • Cellular automata
  • Neural computation
  • Evolutionary computation
  • Swarm intelligence
  • Ant algorithms
  • Artificial immune systems
  • Artificial life
  • Membrane computing
  • Amorphous computing
  • Computational systems biology
  • Computational neuroscience
  • Synthetic biology
  • Cellular (in-vivo) computing
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    $\begingroup$ Wow, "Ant algorithms" gets its own bullet point! $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2017 at 6:19
  • $\begingroup$ :) but Molecular Computing is the biggest topic there I think @HuckBennett $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2017 at 6:26

Grzegorz Rozenberg worked a lot on the way in which ciliates assemble their genes. Besides the theoretical models derived from these operations, I believe he thinks that this assembly is a computational process as it is.


In a seed is stored the information to grow and regrow leaves capable of photosynthesis. Grow reproductive organs which, I guess, make other seeds that contain the original information.

I'm no biologist(or computer scientist) but there are probably many other functions and interesting properties that trees have that I do not know which are also quite complex.

From a single seed, it's enough to repopulate an entire area after a few generation.

A recurrent theme in science fiction is what the technology of the future will be like. How advanced alien technology might be and other musings and daydreams. But it's my uneducated guess that nature is more complicated than whatever humans could conjure up with their imagination.

  • $\begingroup$ I think the OP asks for more precise information on how biological computation is indeed studied in the scope of theoretical cs. Can you provide some papers/survey/conferences where what you are talking about is studied with tcs tools? $\endgroup$
    – holf
    Dec 19, 2017 at 8:26

valiant proposed the PAC framework for learning which is the fundamental theory behind almost all algorithms in computational learning theory

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    $\begingroup$ What does it have to do with the initial question? $\endgroup$
    – holf
    Dec 11, 2017 at 13:18
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    $\begingroup$ Could be that the answer poster is referring to Valiant's thesis regarding PAC model in the context of evolution and what Valiant calls "ecorithms". Again, probablyapproximatelycorrect.com. $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2017 at 4:36

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