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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Oct;1178:78-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.05022.x.

Learning from bacteria about natural information processing.

Author information

1
School of Physics and Astronomy, Raymond and Beverly Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences,Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel. eshel@tamar.tau.ac.il

Abstract

Under natural growth conditions, bacteria live in complex hierarchical communities. To conduct complex cooperative behaviors, bacteria utilize sophisticated communication to the extent that their chemical language includes semantic and even pragmatic aspects. I describe how complex colony forms (patterns) emerge through the communication-based interplay between individual bacteria and the colony. Individual cells assume newly co-generated traits and abilities that are not prestored in the genetic information of the cells, that is, not all the information required for efficient responses to all environmental conditions is stored. To solve newly encountered problems, they assess the problem via collective sensing, recall stored information of past experience, and then execute distributed information processing of the 10(9)-10(12) bacteria in the colony--transforming the colony into a "super-brain." I show illuminating examples of swarming intelligence of live bacteria in which they solve optimization problems that are beyond what human beings can solve. This will lead to a discussion about the special nature of bacterial computational principles compared to Turing algorithm computational principles, in particular about the role of distributed information processing.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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