Can we get bacteria to solve a problem large enough to challenge a person?
If bacteria can be used to optimize, that is minimize or maximize a function, then we are looking at a significant contribution. Even if the bacteria can get reasonably good solutions to a function, i.e. a heuristic approach, that is significant. For example, consider the following very small "fitness" function where the variables a, b and c are either 0 or 1 (on or off).
maximize 2 + a - 2*b*c + b
This is an example from a small max 2-sat problem where all the logical constraints have been translated into a fitness function. What values of a, b and c maximize this function? Did you consider this a challenging problem? (ans: a = b = 1, c = 0 for an objective value of 4)
Is there a way to program e. coli to evolve where their fitness is measured by this or some other function?
Is there a way to try, in parallel, the many possible solutions (different values for the 2^n combinations) and choose the one that has maximized the given function?