Bruce MacLennan has a BS in mathematics (with honors, 1972) from Florida State University, and an MS (1974) and PhD (1975) in computer science from Purdue University. He joined Intel Corporation in 1975 where, as a Senior Software Engineer, he worked on the architectures of the 8086 and the iAPX-432, an advanced object-oriented, multi-processing, multi-programming microprocessor with capability-based addressing and user-definable typing. In 1979 he returned to academia, joining the Computer Science faculty of the Naval Postgraduate School (Monterey, CA), where he was an Assistant Professor (1979–83), an Associate Professor (1983–7), and Acting Chair (1984–5). At NPS he investigated unconventional models for massively parallel computing and artificial intelligence. Since 1987 he has been a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science (now Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
In the mid-80s MacLennan redirected his research toward natural
that is, computation inspired by or occurring in nature. One
aspect of this work has been to understand the representation and
processing of information in the brains of humans and other
animals. In particular, in an attempt to understand the
of the flexibility and efficiency of neural information
has developed models of continuous information representation and
processing, which are a significant departure from traditional
of knowledge. These ideas are especially relevant to AI, but
to neuroscience, cognitive science, and philosophy, and so he has
active in the interdisciplinary intersection of these research
and has collaborated with scholars in each of them.
MacLennan’s investigation into unconventional models of information processing led to the realization that conventional digital computers are inadequate for realizing the full potential of natural computation, and therefore that alternative, more brain-like, technologies should be developed. Therefore he has investigated non-Turing models of computation, in particular field computation. Field computation represents information in terms of spatial continua of low-precision continuous quantities, and is a model for cortical maps in the mammalian brain. He gave invited lectures on the technological aspects of this work in Japan (Mar., Dec. 1991), and on its neuropsychological aspects in Spain (Jul. 1994).
Another aspect of natural computation is the creation and processing of information in populations of organisms, which can be a model of emergent information processing in loosely-organized groups of agents or processors. MacLennan has been especially interested in the emergence of self-organized communication systems, and this research produced the first demonstration (1989) of the evolution of communication in a population of machines. In recognition of this research MacLennan was elected a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies of the Collegium Budapest, and in 1997 he spent the summer there investigating the evolution of communication and combinator-based models of pre-biotic chemical evolution. As a consequence, in the late 90s he began a new research project, a theoretical investigation of the application of molecular computing based on Curry-Feys combinatory logic to nanostructure synthesis and control. (This work was eventually supported by an NSF Nanoscale Exploratory Research Grant.) The emphasis again was on the use of a non-traditional model of computation for an application to which it was especially suited.
In summary, for the last two decades MacLennan’s
research has focused on novel models of computation intended to
exploit physical processes for computation, and to provide new
of information representation and processing in natural and
systems. His research now focuses on unconventional
self-organization. In June 2005, he presented an
invited paper, “The Nature of Computation — Computation in
Nature,” at a workshop on “Natural Processes and New
Models of Computation” organized by the University of
Bologna, and in September 2006, he gave an invited presentation
“Super-Turing or Non-Turing?” at a workshop Future Trends in
Hypercomputation in Sheffield (UK). In 2009 he gave invited
presentations on embodied computation and morphogenesis at The Science and Philosophy of
Unconventional Computation (SPUC 09) at Cambridge University, at Artificial Life 2009 in
Nashville (Keynote Presentation), and at the Fourth International Workshop on
Natural Computing in Himeji Japan. In June 2011 he gave
invited presentations to the Hypercomputation
workshop and the Physics and
Computation workshop at the Unconventional Computation Conference in Turku,
Finland. In March 2012 he was invited to present his work on
embodied computation and artificial morphogenesis at Queen’s
University (Kingston, Canada).
Prof. MacLennan has more than 70 refereed journal articles and
chapters and has had two sole-authored books published (one in its
third edition) and has edited one book.
He has made more than 70 invited or refereed presentations.
Recently, MacLennan was invited to become the founding
Editor-in-Chief of the Internatonal Journal of Nanotechnology
and Molecular Computation (quarterly since January 2009).
Prof. MacLennan is a member of American Association for the
Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Institute of Electrical and
Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and
IEEE Computer Society, the International Society for Nanoscale
Computation and Engineering, the International Society for
Studies (ISNS), and the Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy
(SAGP). Since 1988 he has been a BBS Associate (qualified
commentator) for the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
In addition to ordinary computer science courses, Prof. MacLennan
has taught research-oriented courses on complex systems and
self-organization, natural computation, emergent computation,
networks, artificial life, artificial intelligence, and
epistemology. He has also taught interdisciplinary courses
Studies program and the Chancellor’s Honors Program.