DailyDirt: Beyond Silicon For Computers

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Moore’s Law has held up for a surprisingly long time, but we can see the horizon now where current semiconductor technology won’t be able to keep up with the exponential improvement. It won’t be the end of the (tech) world if computers stop getting faster and faster at the same rate, but the shift might change several large industries. There are a few technological alternatives that could provide alternatives to our current computational standards. Quantum computers have promised a significant advance — if they can be built.

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Peter Kinnon (profile) says:

Diamond quantum computing and the on-going "life" process

This potential for diamond to become the basis for quantum computing is in keeping with the predicted outcome of extraterrestrial “life forms” being generated by a future implementation of what is, at present, the Internet.

The construction of a “brain” that will soon equal and then surpass that typical of our species has for long been a work in progress. Not as a result of any deliberate human “design” but rather as the result of an autonomous evolutionary process that can be seen to have run its exponential course since humankind acquired the ability to share imagination, which we know as language.

Very real evidence indicates the rather imminent emergence of the next, (non-biological) phase of the on-going evolutionary “life” process from what we at present call the Internet.It is effectively evolving by a process of self-assembly. You may have noticed that we are increasingly, in a sense, “enslaved” by our PCs, mobile phones, their apps and many other trappings of the net.

We are already largely dependent upon it for our commerce and industry and there is no turning back. What we perceive as a tool is well on its way to becoming an agent.

Consider this:

There are at present an estimated 2 Billion internet users. There are an estimated 13 Billion neurons in the human brain. On this basis for approximation the internet is even now only one order of magnitude below the human brain and its growth is exponential.
That is a simplification, of course. For example: Not all users have their own computer. So perhaps we could reduce that, say, tenfold. The number of switching units, transistors, if you wish, contained by all the computers connecting to the internet and which are more analogous to individual neurons is many orders of magnitude greater than 2 Billion. Then again, this is compensated for to some extent by the fact that neurons do not appear to be binary switching devices but can adopt multiple states.

Without even crunching the numbers, we see that we must take seriously the possibility that even the present Internet may well be comparable to a human brain in processing power.
And, of course, the degree of interconnection and cross-linking of networks within networks is also growing rapidly.The culmination of this exponential growth corresponds to the event that transhumanists inappropriately call “The Singularity” but is more properly regarded as a phase transition of the on-going “life” process.

An evolutionary continuum that can be traced back at least as far as the formation of the chemical elements in stars.

One that is on track to produce firstly a predominant cognitive entity on this planet from what is at present the Internet with subsequent emergence of “daughter” beings. These likely adapted for extra-terrestrial existence by virtue of the ruggedness and information processing potential of by diamond and other allotropes of carbon.

So, certainly, we may expect carbon-based life to exist within the interstellar realm , but not of the kind that comprises biology.

The broad evolutionary model that supports these contentions and speculations is outlined very informally in “The Goldilocks Effect: What Has Serendipity Ever Done For Us?” , a free download in e-book formats from the “Unusual Perspectives” website

DakotaKid (profile) says:


We have been having the discussion for a very long time. In 1984 I was working on both diamond and Gallium Arsenide at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) to get faster switching times for semiconductors. Silicon is king because it fabricates relatively easily. One or two very expensive devices may be made using other technologies, but after over 30 years nothing has yielded the wonders of silicon. Cheap fabrication is the key and nothing else is on the horizon. By the way after studying technological prediction at AFIT I found that there is an average 100 year time line to technological development; the first 50 years make the technology, and the second 50 years distribute it. After that it remains essentially unchanged until completely replaced. Silicon electronics is following the pattern fairly precisely.

Peter Kinnon (profile) says:

Re: 1984

Yes, a good point. Steven Johnson makes much of such development/uptake cycles in “Where Do Good Ideas Come From?”

However the time-frames differ. Also, of course, if we look further back in history (I do this in “The Intricacy Generator” we see that the patterns are irregular rather than following any hard and fast rule.

Times change. In the log term exponentially, but with many individual fluctuations.

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