Natural computing is a terminology introduced to encompass three classes of methods: (1) those that take inspiration from nature for the development of novel problem-solving techniques; (2) those that are based on the use of computers to synthesize natural phenomena; and (3) those that employ natural materials (e.g., molecules) to compute. The main fields of research that compose these three branches are the artificial neural networks, evolutionary algorithms, swarm intelligence, artificial immune systems, fractal geometry, artificial life, DNA computing, and quantum computing, among others. This paper provides an overview of the fundamentals of natural computing, particularly the fields listed above, emphasizing the biological motivation, some design principles, their scope of applications, current research trends and open problems. The presentation is concluded with a discussion about natural computing, and when it should be used.
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