“Nature as Computer” Studied as Substitute for Quantum Computing Efficiency
The Pentagon Is Turning to Nature to Solve Its Most Complex Problems
Excerpts and salient points ~
+ On Aug. 1, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency kicked off a research initiative that looks to harness the computational power of living cells, chemical bonds and other natural processes to develop more efficient computers.
+ Participants in the program, called Nature as Computer or NAC, will rapidly explore a wide array of computational processes found in the natural world and prototype systems that can mimic them in a lab.
While quantum technology offers one solution, research has also shown natural processes could help solve these problems with a fraction of the resources.
+ The NAC program seeks to address the same fundamental challenge that’s fueling the government’s quantum computing research: the silicon-based, binary computers that exist today aren’t equipped to solve the complex problems the U.S. faces today. Using classical computers to simulate nuclear detonations, model air turbulence or predict other intricate physical processes consumes a significant amount of time, money and hardware, which even the Pentagon can’t always afford.
+ “Without a change in computing technology, the level of power consumption, fault tolerance, and cost necessary for large-scale multiphysics modeling may be enormous and impractical,” DARPA officials wrote in the NAC solicitation.
+ Take protein folding, the process by which proteins built by living cells contort themselves into the three-dimensional structures that let them function properly. Protein folding is “exponentially complex” for scientists to model on a computer, but in the real world, the entire process is completed in a matter of milliseconds, Zhou said. Researchers still don’t fully understand the mechanisms at play in protein folding, “but one of the insights from the current scientific understanding is nature seems to be seeking a different computing strategy,” she said. And instead of using a separate piece of hardware to complete the computation, like a server or mainframe, the process occurs within the protein itself.
Content may have been edited for style and clarity.