Vita — Bruce J. MacLennan

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 computation, 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 sources of the flexibility and efficiency of neural information processing, he has developed models of continuous information representation and processing, which are a significant departure from traditional theories of knowledge.  These ideas are especially relevant to AI, but also to neuroscience, cognitive science, and philosophy, and so he has been active in the interdisciplinary intersection of these research areas 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 better exploit physical processes for computation, and to provide new concepts of information representation and processing in natural and artificial systems.  His research now focuses on unconventional computation and 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 book 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 Science, Computation and Engineering, the International Society for Neoplatonic 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, neural networks, artificial life, artificial intelligence, and epistemology.  He has also taught interdisciplinary courses for the University Studies program and the Chancellor’s Honors Program.

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Last updated: 2013-08-16.