The nature of computation was first identified by Alan Turing in the 1930's. He and von Neumann, among other pioneers of computing, soon sought to formulate aspects of biology in those terms. In retrospect, Darwin's theory of evolution, can also be viewed as a computational principle, one that remarkably makes no specific mention of physics, chemistry, ecology, or any other specifics of the physical embodiment of life. The question we ask in this talk is how our current understanding of computation can help advance our understanding of biology, and in particular, neuroscience and evolution. In neuroscience the emphasis will be on quantitative accounts of how cortex could perform the large number of cognitive tasks that a human can perform in a lifetime, with the limited resources that appear to be available. In evolution, the emphasis will be on a quantitatively accounting of the apparent speed of evolution.
L. G. Valiant, Circuits of the Mind, Oxford University Press, 2000.
L. G. Valiant, Probably Approximately Correct, Basic Books, 2013.