Biological Framings of Problems in Computing

Santa Fe Institute

April 17–19, 2002

In 1900, one of the most distinguished mathematicians of the day, David Hilbert gave a lecture in Paris looking ahead to the new century in mathematics and attempting to define the areas in which future developments would lie. He said:

We know that every age has its own problems, which the following age either solves or casts aside as profitless and replaces by new ones. If we would obtain an idea of the probable development of mathematical knowledge in the future, we must ... look over the problems which the science of today sets and whose solution we expect from the future.

Hilbert went on to list twenty-three such problems. Some were specific mathematical problems, others more general questions. The remarkable things about these problems were the breadth of mathematics covered and the effect they have had on modern mathematics. A couple were trivial, but the others generated whole new branches of the subject in the efforts made to solve them or to show that they were insoluble.

From April 17-19, 2002, at the Santa Fe Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico, we will hold a workshop to begin to define a set of significant computing problems - like Hilbert's - for the next age, aimed at concretely exploring biological metaphors for computing and at guiding computing research and development for the next 100 years

These biological framings would include such things as treating software creation as a process of genetically guided growth, explaining software operation as a combination of homeostasis and autopoiesis, and characterizing software behavior as adaptive and emergent.

Attendance is by invitation only, and selection is based on a submitted draft of a problem statement. The following is an example of a possible problem statement:

Create a nontrivial software system on the same order of complexity as a simple text editor all of whose observable symptoms of failure are attempts by the system at self-repair.

To apply for the workshop, please send a problem statement and a short biography to feyerabend at by February 15, 2002.

Applications Closed