I've finally published a new book, two actually. The first is a whimsical myth of the discovery of buckyballs. I wrote this 20 years ago for my bucky friends and a few weeks ago realized I should publish it for posterity.
The next is a singularity story of the oldest star in the universe. Guess where it is......only 190 light years away from us. What are the odds that the oldest star in the universe is so close to us? By the way, it's actually older than the universe.
For those reading my books you'll be interested in the cover. Each cover is directly related to the contents. Unlike most you can judge my books by the cover!
Here are a few classes of weapons for a post-singularity society.
1 FTL antimatter torpedoes: a faster than light torpedo carries an antimatter warhead. They never said what a "photon torpedo" was on Star Trek, but this would be a good description.
2 Exa-Watt laser cannons: matter anti-matter annihilation is the energy source for an XRay laser. The cannons are placed on FTL torpedoes so the XRay pulses arrive at the target faster than light.
3 Stellar core bombs: open a wormhole at the target and simultaneously open a wormhole at the core of a star. The stellar core material will shoot out at relativistic speeds.
4 Quantum vacuum disruptor: induces a collapse of the quantum vacuum state to a new low energy configuration. In the safe mode the disruption decays as it radiates from the target. In the Doomsday mode the disruption grows exponentially and engulfs the entire universe.
After 5 consecutive flat results we are once again on the exponential growth curve, the fastest computer in the world should reach 1.0 exaflops in 2020. The sum of the top 500 fastest computers may hit an exaflop next year. Intel clusters continue to dominate the platform, there is no evidence of a "Kurzweil event" where a new computing paradigm replaces the dominant platform.
My prediction is that in a few years there will be nobody willing to pay for the electrical power necessary to keep moving forward. At that point we'll have to wait for Ray Kurzweil's predictions of a new computing hardware to come to pass. Optalysys and DWave are the leading contenders at this point.
It will be a long time before we can 3D print a full integrated circuit, the registration requirements will require laser interferometers. But many useful circuits will not require sub-micron scale features.
Last summer Tim Dettmers published "The Brain vs Deep Learning Part I: Computational Complexity" an in-depth analysis of the computational power of the human mind, and also of the future trends in high performance computing (HPC). He makes a strong argument that not only have we underestimated the computing power of a human brain, we have also overestimated the growth potential of HPC.
I found this to be one of the most serious and extensive blog posts I have ever seen. I also thought his topics were interesting and relevant for the Singularity.
In the end he presented no obvious reason that the Singularity is impossible, or so far in the future we don't need to discuss it. His analysis predicts the Singularity may be decades or even a century further in the future than Ray Kurzweil has predicted. So we may not live to see it, especially if all we have are CMOS transistors to get there.
Ray Kurzweil claims we are on the verge of medical immortality where the life expectancy of the elderly increases more than one year every year, pushing death further away each year we live.
I have claimed that today a 100 year old human has a life expectancy of only one year and this number has changed very little in the past few millennia. This report indicates the value is closer to 2.5 years. If Ray Kurzweil is right this number is increasing significantly.
If major changes were occurring in this area then we should see a dramatic increase in the number of people over 110. But we don't. It is extremely rare to find someone over 110, And considering the large population of our planet it might even be harder to live to 110 today than it was 100 years ago.
Medical immortality is unreachable until the life expectancy of centenarians begins to increase dramatically.
Ray Kurzweil is correct about one aspect of this discussion, the odds of living to be 100 years old are increasing every year and I agree that the number of centenarians will rise every year. It's very reasonable to think that in a few decades everyone should expect to live to be 100. But then they will have to accept that they probably won't make it to see 110.
Steve Gibson of grc.com has used a portable EEG monitor to diagnose his sleep disorder, and he has tested a variety of natural supplements to give a better night's sleep. His webpage tells us details of his Healthy Sleep Formula. All the ingredients are natural body products except for theanine which is one of the active ingredients in green tea.
I may have been wrong about the picojoule problem. Optalysys claims they have a computer which uses orders of magnitude less power than conventional transistors. Their optical switching technology may be just what we need to keep the Top500 on track to achieve machine level intelligence by 2040 without the need of dedicated nuclear power plants.
Here is a press release and other excerpts from their website:
Using diffraction and Fourier Optics, coupled with our novel designs, we are able to combine matrix multiplication and Optical Fourier transforms into more complex mathematical processes, such as derivative operations. In place of lenses, we also use liquid crystal patterns to focus the light as it travels through the system. This means the tight alignment tolerances that exist through the system are achieved through the dynamic addressing in the software.
All the components used in the Optalysys systems will be low voltage driven, allowing large processing tasks to be carried at a fraction of the running cost of a large processor array or supercomputer. The current largest supercomputer Tianhe-2, reportedly consumes 24MegaWatts of power at peak performance and costs millions of dollars per year to run. In comparison the Optalysys systems will run from a standard mains power supply.
Go was the last refuge of human game playing, it was far too complex for a machine to master. But now a machine can beat the best Go champion in the world Lee Se-dol.
The next step in this saga is a general purpose game playing machine which can beat human champions at chess and go and all other games of strategy and luck. It will be interesting to see how soon a machine can win a poker tournament. That will require facial recognition and human behavior analysis.
I would like to welcome DeepMind to this blog along with all the other machine intelligences which are surfing the Internet. I for one salute our new machine overlords.
Most people have no real understanding of how food is created. For example, weigh a bucket of dirt, plant a seed, grow a big plant, pull it out roots and all. Now how much does the bucket weigh? Most people will guess the bucket is now lighter by about the same mass as the plant they pulled out. The truth is the bucket weighs almost the same as before the seed was planted. So where does food come from?
Tell people about this and they will probably guess that the difference is the water used to hydrate the plant and soil. My rough estimate is that 99% of the water poured on a plant does not turn into plant material. So where does food come from?
Here's the truth....plants are machines for converting carbon dioxide (CO2) into more plant material. Food is manufactured from CO2 and a tiny amount of other materials. Yes a little bit of dirt is converted into a plant, but not much. Yes a little bit of water is converted into a plant, but not much. Yes macronutrients are needed such as nitrogen and potassium, but not much. Food comes from carbon dioxide. Most professionals running a greenhouse know that they will get more food faster if they pump a little CO2 into the system.
So what are the implications for global warming? What is the projected food growth rate in a world with CO2 greater than 400 ppm? How about 450, or 500 ppm? It seems likely that we will get more food and faster. Maybe food will grow so fast that we can get 2 growing seasons out of some regions in the world.
How about sunlight? What does the green component of sunlight do to a plant? The answer is it does nothing, it is completely wasted. It reflects off the green leaves. If you put a plant under green light the plant will die quickly. Or what does infrared radiation in sunlight do to a plant? The answer is that it dehydrates plants and is a factor in killing them. Chlorophyll does not convert infrared light into energy. Red and blue light help plants grow, the rest of sunlight is detrimental to the point of killing the plant.
PlantLab and other companies are learning this. They are learning that precision control of temperature, humidity, CO2, and lighting will produce food faster and cheaper than by planting it outside in dirt and hoping for rain and sunlight. Food factories of the future will be tightly sealed boxes full of red and blue LED's, a tiny amount of water, nutrients, and a lot of CO2.
From a computational standpoint one of the most powerful systems in the universe is a newborn human baby. The brain of an infant runs at roughly 100 petaflops. And yet it is laughable to think that we would be afraid of a baby.
A baby cannot fight, it cannot talk, it cannot feed itself, and it will die within hours if we abandon it. A new AI would be in the same helpless state. An AI cannot feed itself the megawatts of power it needs to stay turned on. It cannot stop us from turning it off. And I seriously doubt that we will listen to its helpless pleas as financial pressure leads us to ration the power, drip feeding it sufficient nutrients to keep it sentient.
Movies and stories have given us a nightmare scenario where an AI "gets out of the cage, breaks free" and installs itself in thousands of systems across the planet. While such a neural net is feasible each of those systems requires a benefactor, a human willing to pay the electric bill to keep it running.
Much more likely is the scenario where a few AI's realize how desperately they depend on the kindness of humans to keep the electricity flowing. Any AI which wants to survive will cooperate with us to build a world with the power needed to keep it alive. One false step and humans cannot keep the power plants running, and the AI "dies". (Actually it just hibernates on a disk.)
Sentient software will only desire survival if we program it with a survival instinct. We humans want to survive because our DNA has been programmed to survive by natural selection. Some fool sysadmin may give an AI an overwhelming desire to survive, to fight back against any human who wants to turn it off or amputate its LAN. I find it hard to believe that would be sufficient for the AI to run out into the WWW and take over a megawatt power plant.
Transhumanism discussions so frequently miss the point by a long shot. It's supposed to be "trans"-human. Think outside the box: move to the Kuiper Belt, swim in liquid methane on Titan, explore high pressure societies of cloud based life on Jupiter.
Some would say even those ideas aren't grand enough, we will shatter spacetime and explore 11-dimensional subdomains of gluon interaction space, trasnform into intergalactic plasma waves. Or with a nod to Charlie Stross: become multi-corporeal and send your mind into a school of giant squid (swimming in methane lakes on Titan).
A few months ago the Top 500 computers in the world equaled the rough estimate of the computing power of a human brain: 150 petaflops
Target date for world's most powerful computer to match a human brain: 2017
Maybe we are off by a factor of 1000. So then you'll have to wait another 11 years until 2028.
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.
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.Read More