Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The editors of this book set out their stall in their introduction when they write that in relation to technology:
The difficulty is that once a certain set of concepts and images are set into place, the influence of these concepts may take on a life and power of their own … guiding and shaping further development downstream until it becomes inconceivable to think of a certain technology as having taken any other track.
They quote the standard paradigm of digital computing with its division into “hardware” and “software” which has been used to explain the relationship between brain and mind. This, identifies the human mind as nothing more than the software that happens to be running what they call the “wetware”, that is the human brain. They take the view that:
the great power of the human brain and other biological organisms – feats of recognition, immense parallel processing abilities – are due to the fact that we do not operate according to the digital information/hardware split.
They follow this with a text that believes that the next great change in computer science and information technology will come from mimicking the techniques by which biological organisms process information. This provides conformation of the need for cybernetics and systems development, since its interdisciplinary nature can draw on the expertise of subjects not usually associated with computing such as molecular biology, bioengineering and smart materials. This book is content to provide an introduction to what the authors believe is the new interdisciplinary field of molecular computing.
To do this it moves over seven chapters from the introduction to the abstract notions of molecular computing to the development and building of real systems. The book's editors contribute some excellent papers written in conjunction with invited contributors.
The first paper set out the rationale for “confirmation‐based computing and was written by the late Michael Conrad and Klaus‐Peter Zauner. It set out clearly the objectives and provided a worthy introduction to the new concepts of molecular computing studies. This was followed by contributions which equally well provided the essentials for any understanding of the main aims of the authors in introducing this new approach. Some of the topics chosen for discussion included: the use of proteins and other molecules for information processing; molecular recognition; computation in nonlinear media; computers based on physical reaction‐diffusion systems found in chemical media; DNA computing; bioelectronics and protein‐based optical computing: and biosensors. The book succeeds in carrying out the editor's main aim of bringing clarity to the many issues which surround what to many readers is a new set of concepts and their applications to the development of molecular computing systems. The direction taken in compiling the book allowed it to consist of a pattern of chapters that keep ones interest. It led to a review paper which covered the current developments in biosensors and their applications. Some readers might be disappointed that there were no papers on some topics which they may regard are essential to this study. The authors themselves have included a paragraph in their final comments on “what we have not included”. Missing were papers on: quantum computing; neural networks; and some other topics. They took the right decision, the book will be bought by those who are computer scientists or those who are sufficiently interested in the field to go beyond the stages of just pressing keyboard buttons. Anything that was deemed to be too obscure for such a readership was avoided and the general approach to the subject took the form of a guide to a new set of concepts and developments. It was encouraging to read that the authors regard the book as only “the first of many guides in this new field”.