The most efficient machines remember what has happened to them, and use that memory to predict what the future holds. That is the conclusion of a theoretical study by Susanne Still, a computer scientist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and her colleagues, and it should apply equally to “machines” ranging from molecular enzymes to computers, Nature News reports.
The finding could help to improve scientific models such as those used to study climate change. Information that provides clues about the future state of the environment is useful, because it enables the machine to ‘prepare’ — to adapt to future circumstances, and thus to work as efficiently as possible.
…think of a vehicle fitted with a smart driver-assistance system that uses sensors to anticipate its imminent environment and react accordingly — for example, by recording whether the terrain is wet or dry, and thus predicting how best to brake for safety and fuel efficiency. That sort of predictive function costs only a tiny amount of processing energy compared with the total energy consumption of a car.
But for a biomolecule it can be very costly to store information, so its memory needs to be highly selective.
…Because biochemical motors and pumps have indeed evolved to be efficient, says Still, “they must therefore be doing something clever — something tied to the cognitive ability we pride ourselves with: the capacity to construct concise representations of the world we have encountered, which allow us to say something about things yet to come”.
To be honest, I’m not sure I fully understand theoretical Biology well enough to know how “real” this is outside of simulation; but it sounds as if this research is helping to improve how biological processes get modeled.