Meeting Summary: Many researchers almost view as a truism the idea that “biological systems compute.” But does that phrase mean anything, formally? What can we learn by looking at biological systems through the lens of computer science theory (either the current kind designed for digital systems or some other variant)? This workshop will investigate this fundamental issue, taking the broadest view of both computational theory and biological systems, in order to identify new research paths within both computer science and biology (and across these disciplines).
The workshop will have several subthemes. These include:
• Identification of the basic elements of computation in biological systems;
• The role of energy, thermodynamics, and information in structuring biological computation;
• Identification of principles shared with electronic computing systems; • Promising directions for future research.
The biological systems that we aim to interrogate span the diversity offered by nature, including neural systems, genetics, gene regulatory networks, animal collectives, plant and slime mold networks, synthetic biological systems, and natural selection itself. To formalize links between computational theory and such a broad array of biological systems, we aim to bring together traditional computer scientists, computer scientists who draw on biological systems for inspiration, statistical physicists, information theorists, and experts on computation across all of the biological systems of interest.