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30 December 2008



Just some thoughts that popped into my head while reading the above. Once molecular computers are developed, will everything we own become a smart device? Who will decide how smart? Who will control the on/off switch for all this smart stuff. Every computer I have ever used required a software program to function. When will the smart rocks become smart enough to write their own programs to determine how smart they need to be. Will they stop at need and move to desire? The power cords and batteries in our smart devices are powerful unforgiving tethers. No power, no computing. No brain food, no computation. How do we break the smart rocks tether? Can we power smart rocks from the cosmic energy bombarding the earth daily, eliminating the tether?

George Rebane

Good questions Russ. Low-powered molecular scale computing will most likely come to pass before the Singularity. Such computers will be assembled by nano-scaled engines and will exhibit the regular structures that we’re used to seeing in micro-chips today. In other words, microscopic examination of these computers will immediately reveal the hand of Man in their construction. Most of these computers will probably operate with written code like those of today. But some of the molecular scale machines will be of the form of learning structures, perhaps similar to the hierarchical temporal memory proposed by Jeff Hawkins in ‘On Intelligence’, and they will, in a sense, program themselves by going through a learning/training experience. (Numenta, Inc. is now developing such computers for commercial applications.)

It’s hard to imagine that cold matter computing would arrive pre-Singularity. Cold computing implies that all kinds of matter could become ‘smart’ by establishing a computing mesh within itself through an organization of either atomic-scale electromagnetic or quantum ‘connections’. Microscopic examination of the innards of such computing matter would not reveal any manmade regularity. But, of course, the matter could then learn to be smart in some sense. It would draw energy from its environment and be able to compute (think?) at speeds that increase with its energy content (e.g. as measured by its temperature). And if by chance cold matter computing does arrive before the Singularity, I believe that the Singularity event would occur quickly thereafter.

Finally, when we consider computing at this level, biology will have been transcended and we have to re-examine our concepts of sentience, sapience, and life itself. Consider this, every star in the universe could be ‘alive’ since every star has the potential complexity to establish a computing mesh within itself. But now we’re getting to a level of ruminating that requires at least a glass of wine and a comfortable chair for each participant.

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