Reilly Center Forum - Dr. Klaus Mainzer, "CNN Philosophy"


Location: 129 DeBartolo

"CNN Philosophy: From Cellular Nonlinear Networks to Biologically Inspired Computing"

Klaus Mainzer (Technical University of Munich)


Cellular Nonlinear/Neural Network (CNN) technology is both a revolutionary concept and an experimentally proven new computing paradigm. It lays the groundwork for a different approach to information processing that is based on brain-inspired spatial-temporal behavior in large-scale, cellular arrays of nanoeletronic processing elements. From a technical point of view, CNN technology offers new approaches to biologically inspired computing and networking. From a philosophical point of view, cellular nonlinear networks also include modeling complex systems in nature with biological, chemical, and physical processes. In history of philosophy and science, the question was discussed why complex structures and patterns emerge in nature. At first defined in the theory of nonlinear electronic circuits in a mathematically rigorous way, the principle of local activity explains the emergence of complex patterns in a homogeneous medium. It can be generalized and proven at least for the class of nonlinear reaction-diffusion systems in physics, chemistry, biology, and brain research. Recently, it was applied to Hodgkin-Huxley neurons and nanoelectronic circuits to generate action potentials and spike trains. Obviously, the CNN philosophy is linked with deep problems of epistemology. But, bio-inspired computing also leads to questions of societal acceptance and ethical benchmarks.

References: K. Mainzer, L.O. Chua: Local Activity Principle, Imperial College Press: London 2013; K. Mainzer, L.O. Chua: The Universe as Automaton, Springer: Berlin 2011; K. Mainzer, Thinking in Complexity, Springer: New York 5th edition 2007; K. Mainzer: Symmetry and Complexity. The Spirit and Beauty of Nonlinear Science, World Scientific: Singapore 2005.

Prof. Dr. Klaus Mainzer is a philosopher of science and director of the Center for Technology and Society at the Technical University of Munich. For more information, see his university profile at

This Reilly Forum event is co-sponsored with NDnano; the Interdisciplinary Center for Network Science and Applications (iCeNSA); and the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE), with support from the National Science Foundation.