Watched a mediocre scifi movie a few days ago, Code 46.
Apart from some boring scenes setting the dreamlike mood, and some stupid sex scenes, there was one brilliant idea.
In this movie viruses have profound power over people. A woman is given a virus which causes her revulsion when she is near a man whose genetics matches hers.
The idea that viruses modify human behavior would have been pure science fiction a few years ago, but that was before discoveries about a virus which causes rats to change their behavior such that they are more likely to be eaten by cats.
A hundred years from now will we have a long list of human behaviors which are primarly caused by viruses?
If we could purge all viruses from our bodies how many dysfunctional and destructive behaviors would vanish from our lives?
Within 20 years we will have headsets which will deliver electromagnetic pulses directly to the pleasure centers of our brain. The sensation will be many times more powerful and pleasurable than sex. And instead of 10 to 20 minutes of pleasure each day we will have 10-12 hours of overwhelming pleasure every day.
As soon as this is available many of our world’s problems will go away, abortion rates will plummet as almost nobody will have sex unless they are specifically trying to make a child. Sexually transmitted diseases and rape will be a thing of the past. Male aggression will almost vanish which will directly lead to lower crime rates. Drug abuse will go away as the headsets take over. Our society’s addition to sex will fade. And since we’ll all have self-driving cars we can use them during commutes.
Larry Niven called them wireheads. We’ll see them everywhere, we will be them.
Update July 12, 2012 Article from The Week on electroneural stimulation. We are closer than I thought.
A little off topic but a cool technology: Miniature security tags with unique serial numbers. Glue them on your valuable property and thieves won’t even know they are there. Prove you own your stuff with MyDataTags @ www.mydatatags.com
IEEE had a good article a few months ago about the impending slowdown in the growth of supercomputer power.
The reasoning is sound, and boils down to a simple idea. The energy required per floating point operation is not dropping exponentially. Therefore the energy required to support an exponential growth curve is growing exponentially. In other words, an unsustainable amount of energy will be needed to support the current growth curve.
A floating point operation currently requires about 70 picojoules of energy. This number is not anticipated to drop using currently available CMOS technology. Thus. the total energy needed to sustain the supercomputer growth curve will soon match the output of an entire nuclear power plant.
We certainly could build a supercomputer with its own dedicated nuclear power plant. My guess is that we won’t. So as long as we use CMOS transistors for computation there is a maximum supercomputer we will build. And that will happen in roughly 10 years.
A word repeated several times in this analysis is “current”. Current CMOS technology operating with current paradigms and our current data processing technology has a power limit which will end the supercomputer growth curve.
But as Ray Kurzweil has said over and over again, computing hardware has changed many times in the past 2 centuries and it will probably change again in our lifetime. Graphene quantum molecular switches coupled by plasmon interconnects to photonic modulators could offer a dramatic reduction in the power per operation. Yesterday this was science fiction. Today it is cutting edge research. In 40 years it will probably be embedded in our wrists.
September 30th, 2011 · 4 Comments
Many people scoff and have problems even understanding the Singularity. With credit to Charlie Stross the singularity is defined as a specific 13 year period from 2047 through 2060. Here is a chart of the computational speed of the fastest computer in the world, as measured in floating point operations per second. You can see that today we have a computer rated at 8.16 petaflops. A human brain has the computational power of approximately 100 petaflops. So even today the most powerful computer is an imbecile as compared with a human. It will be 2016 before the fastest computer can claim to match the power of a human brain. That is NOT the beginning of the singularity.
The population of this planet will soon peak out at 9 billion souls. 9 billion people have the computing power of about 10^27 flops (1000 yottaflops). Does that sound like a lot?
According to this chart in the year 2047 the fasted computer in the world will have the capacity of 1% of all existing human brains. 13 years later the fastest computer in the world will be 100 times more powerful than all human brains combined. This sudden transition of the dominant computing species on Earth is the Singularity. That’s it. It’s pretty easy. It’s going to happen unless we destroy our computer chip manufacturing infrastructure.
A more radical view is to use the top curve, the sum computer power of the 500 fastest computers in the world. Next year this sum will match a human brain. The singularity (the transition from 1% to 99%) will span the years 2042 to 2055. A pessimistic view says that a human brain has more like 1000 petaflops, or even 10,000. That just pushes the singularity out another 5-10 years. It does not even remotely change this argument.
If you don’t believe this will happen then you need to give a very good, very technical reason why this growth curve will stop. It cannot just slow down, that only delays the transition a few years. If you do not have a well defined technical reason for proving this computing growth curve will stop then you have no argument against the singularity.
We simply cannot know or predict the consequences when 1000 yottaflop intelligence is actively rewriting its own software and designing its own offspring, when exaflop and zettaflop constructs are free to think and create for themselves. Anyone who says they know what will happen is simply wrong. The real truth is that we really do not know, we cannot know. How will we even communicate when less than 0.01% of the computing in our solar system is done by human brains?
And a final note. These beings will grow 1000 times more powerful every 11 years. Unless our population suddenly grows 1000x every 11 years then we cannot even conceive of keeping up. By the 22nd century human brains will be an infinitesimal portion of the computing power of this solar system. If you want to know what it might look like read Accelerando by Charlie Stross. This might be the most important book ever written.
Found a free online set of mp3 recordings of a dramatization of Walter Miller’s “A Canticle for Leibowitz”. I’m about 1/4 of the way into it, the dramatization is good although at a few points it’s difficult to hear what is being said. The chant and hymns are excellent.
John Denardo posted a link to Vernor Vinge’s interview from Reason.tv
Vernor Vinge is a professor at San Diego State University famous for his thoughts and fiction surrounding the upcoming singularity.
Robert Bradbury the person who introduced us to Matrioshka Brains has passed away. Here’s an eloquent memorium from George Dvorsky.
I wonder if we will ever learn that there are billions of Matrioshka Brains in the Milky Way, most of them far from the galactic center. We currently call them dark matter.
If I had my choice of where to live in the Milky Way I would want to be as far as possible from the monster black hole at its center.
Richard Hoover of NASA claims to have found alien microbes inside of a meteorite (right side, left side is a real terrestrial bacterium).
I predict 2 types of responses: pathological rejection and people who equate this with sentient space faring beings.
Frankly I think panspermia is the only theory of evolution which makes much sense. Integrate evolution over 10 billion planets and 10 billion years and you get believable statistics.
In the quantum mechanics or statistical mechanics sense a forbidden event is never completely impossible. Rather it is extremely improbable based upon some symmetry, entropy, or energy constraint. I propose that in most situations time travel into the past is extremely improbable.
Theorem: Time travel into the past has an exponentially increasing improbability as changes to the timeline become observable.
Corollary 1: Time travel into the past is allowed if and only if it does not disrupt the timeline.
Corollary 2: The butterfly effect is included in timeline disruptions.
Corollary 3: The butterfly effect does not apply below the level of Heisenberg uncertainty.
Sending a human backwards in time to Earth would create a sudden pressure wave as the air (or water) at that location is displaced. The butterfly effect implies this will always be a forbidden transition.
But a human could be sent to a height where the air pressure is essentially zero then gradually move downward. However it is unlikely that a human could move around and do anything useful without causing sufficient changes to prevent the trip in the first place.
Sending a tiny robot back in time is much more likely to result in no disruptions to the timeline, especially if that robot does little more than float around on air currents and observe.
A time machine will attempt to send a tiny robot back in time hundreds or millions of times per second. Attempt after attempt is rejected by the timeline, but there is a statistical chance of success. After millions or trillions of attempts a delivery vector is found resulting in an identical timeline and the robot is successfully transferred.
Would insertion of a tiny robot into a hurricane result in any changes to the timeline? The minute changes to the air currents at the arrival point could be quickly washed out by the extreme winds in a hurricane. Perhaps the target location with the highest chance of success is the Atlantic ocean during hurricane season.
And how would that robot return to our time? The same way rocks travel forward in time. The robot would find a quiet place and sit there until it is found. It doesn’t even need power for that part of its mission. Success only requires non-volatile memory and perhaps a long lived radioisotope to make it easier to find under the detritus of the centuries.
This might mean that a careful search would reveal some of these robots sitting around important places like Jerusalem or Dealey Plaza. But if we found one and decoded the stored media that would change the timeline and wouldn’t the trip have been forbidden in the first place?