Impressive as today’s supercomputers are, they remain “Turing machines”: processors that perform the kinds of mathematical operations that humans can do, albeit exponentially faster and on a massive scale. Turing machines have particular limitations: there are computations that they cannot perform. However, biocomputing may not suffer these constraints. It is highly likely that bacterial networks can be encouraged to self-organise into arrangements that compute in ways that go beyond traditional Boolean logic implementations, and beyond what Turing machines can achieve.
These computations will inspire new, supra-Turing models of computation and information processing and may lead to an era of “cellular supremacy”, where biological networks solve problems that are intractable to traditional computation models.12 It may also be possible to create “hybrid” architectures that interface cellular systems with traditional silicon-based computers, creating a different form of computational advantage.13 The ability to compute in the presence of noise, and with analogue signals, may also give biology an edge over digital Turing machines.