08 July 2006

A morning's-worth of scientific reading + listening

"Oh, no, not that again. I don't want to hear about computers becoming more "intelligent" than humans by 2030, or whatever."

Here's an abridged text that covers a lot of the same ground as the hefty The Singularity is Near, by Ray Kurzweil. Learn about exponential and super-exponential progress in semiconductors, DNA transcription, and data communication speeds -- and how we should expect computers with superhuman intelligence and future virtual-reality experiences provided by nanobots coursing through our bloodsteam.

However, I'm not comfortable with Mr. Kurzweil's calculations about "the processing power of the brain" from which he extrapolates the date at which a $1,000 PC will be as "intelligent" as a person. (200 computations per second per synapse? Huh? I'm not sure what qualifies as a computation in a neural system, especially when information is transmitted with a variety of chemicals that vary in data-stream character based on your scale of examination -- pulse-coding, spikes, continuous potentials, chemical gradients...).

The online essay will get you the main points of the Singularity idea. An excerpt:
  • We achieve one Human Brain capability (2 * 10^16 cps) for $1,000 around the year 2023.
  • We achieve one Human Brain capability (2 * 10^16 cps) for one cent around the year 2037.
  • We achieve one Human Race capability (2 * 10^26 cps) for $1,000 around the year 2049.
  • We achieve one Human Race capability (2 * 10^26 cps) for one cent around the year 2059.
[Link to Kurzweil's "The Law of Accelerating Returns" at his KurzweilAI.net site.]

Listen to Some Very Smart People this Morning
Whether you believe in the Singularity or not, Stanford hosted a related conference with very thoughtful participants. Speakers included Doug Hofstadter (of GBE fame), K. Eric Drexler (nano-machine technologist) and Max More (the psuedonym, I assume, of a leader of the Extropy Institute which frightens J-Fav to no end).

Listen - for free with and without "network hiccups" - to these insightful and creative folks at The Singularity Summit at Stanford website. I liked that Max More pointed out that super-intelligence is different than super-wisdom; that is, an intelligent being might not be a wise being.

Speaking of... Thoughts
Enjoying Ron Hale-Evans's Mind Performance Hacks, through or about which I found this book: How to Make a Complete Map of Every Thought You Think.

By Lion Kimbro. Isn't Lion Kimbro a cool name?

Making Factories and Computers with DNA
Article from LiveScience here.


ps Rest assured, I stopped watching Rachel Ray a few days after my blog-rant several months ago. Regardless, one commenter pointed me to a pro-RR site that referred to my rant with astonishment. Hah! This is just wacky. Ok, you win. I give up. Rather than wasting my time complaining about RR, I waste my time blogging about links to bizarre science.

1 comment:

SLynnRo said...

Ha ha- that Rachael Ray dude attacked my blog as well.