AI News, Difference between revisions of "Accelerando Technical Companion"

Difference between revisions of "Accelerando Technical Companion"

The purpose of this companion is to help alleviate any confusions the reader may have, as well as to introduce new confusions by giving the reader an idea of the current state and expected future of the technologies described in the novel.

within a generation he's an obsolete burnout case, his daughter Amber has transmigrated into a simulation space hosted aboard a one kilogram starship, and they're dismantling the solar system to build more brains.

agalmics: A form of economics concerning the 'study and practice of the production and allocation of non-scarce goods,' primarily via free-market trading, open-source initiatives, and flexible standards for intellectual property.

Bose-Einstein condensate: A Bose–Einstein condensate is a phase of matter formed by bosons cooled to temperatures very near to absolute zero (0 kelvins or -273.15 degrees Celsius).

Under such supercooled conditions, a large fraction of the atoms collapse into the lowest quantum state, at which point quantum effects become apparent on a macroscopic scale.

Brown Dwarf: Brown dwarfs are sub-stellar objects with a mass below that necessary to maintain hydrogen-burning nuclear fusion reactions in their cores, as do stars on the main sequence, but which have fully convective surfaces and interiors, with no chemical differentiation by depth.

Cartesian theatre: Descartes suggested that the brain served to pre-process sensory information and deliver it to the 'seat of the soul,' or homunculus (Latin, literally, 'little man').

He proposed that this function might be somewhat like the viewing of a play, wherein the sole audience member, the soul, views the perceptions delivered by the brain as if in a theatre.

Deep Space Network (DSN): From the official site: 'The NASA Deep Space Network - or DSN - is an international network of antennas that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and radio and radar astronomy observations for the exploration of the solar system and the universe.'

Many extropians foresee the eventual realization of unlimited maximum life spans, and the recovery, thanks to future advances in biomedical technology, of those whose bodies/brains have been preserved by means of cryonics.

light cone: In general relativity, the future light cone is the boundary of the causal future of a point and the past light cone is the boundary of its causal past.

Lobster stomatogastric ganglion (STG): This is a well-studied network of neurons found in the lobster which controls the rhythmic contractions of stomach muscles and intra-stomach teeth.

Neurobiologists treat this ganglion as a model system for understanding central pattern generators, a generic term for networks of neurons which control repetitive behavior.

The innermost shell is powered by the radiation from a star, while outer shells are powered by residual radiation and waste heat generated by inner shells.

rubberized concrete: Roger Jones and others, working at LANL in 1997, reported on the successful use of supercritical carbon dioxide to impregnate concrete with polymers, dyes, and other interesting molecules that modify its physical properties.

Slashdotting: A large influx of visitors to a web server, due to a link from the front page of, a popular web site for technology-related news.

The hyphae (strands) of many fungi are syncitial: long open cellular tubes with multiple nuclei but no internal cell walls, as opposed to one cell-controlling nucleus per partitioned-off cell.

Thompson hack: a type of back door (security hole) in a computer program which is undetectable even by examining the source code because it is introduced by the compiler, which itself contains this type of back door.

For instance, one could prove Fermat's Last Theorem (or almost any other theorem) by writing a program that tries all possible x, y, z, and n until it finds a solution of x^n+y^n=z^n, then asking the Turing Oracle whether the program will ever find a solution.

van Eck radiation: The electromagnetic emissions of a computer display or processor, the act of detecting and reconstructing which is known as van Eck phreaking, in a form of electronic eavesdropping.

Variable specific impulse magnetoplasma rocket: The variable specific impulse magnetoplasma rocket (VASIMR) is a hypothetical form of spacecraft propulsion that uses radio waves and magnetic fields to accelerate a propellant.

Since measuring time in units like days, months, and years are of limited usefulness in regions not on the planet Earth, one often sees the usage of time measures based on the second, such as megaseconds or gigaseconds.

An EXOcortex can best be described as the portion of a trans- or posthuman entity's brain (or cortex) which exists outside of that entity's primary computing structure, usually the brain inhabiting a person's 'meatbody.'

For example, a person's exocortex could very well be composed of all the external memory modules, processor, and devices that the person's biological brain interacts with on a realtime basis, thereby in effect making those external devices a functional part of the individual's 'mind.'

A METAcortex, on the other hand, is a processing construction built entirely out of the connections between other processing constructions--a sort of 'higher brain' composed of lesser brains, all of which contribute to its functionality.

These devices, however, are almost certainly networked with millions of similar devices (other folks' computers/servers/etc.) via the Internet--which, as a collective processing and data-storage organ, can be considered a METAcortex encompassing but also transcending (in functionality) the sum of all its parts.

As he arrives at the Luton airport at the beginning of the chapter, Manny makes an offhand reference to President Santorum's America, most likely referring to a future in which a decadent U.S. is presided by current (as of the book's writing) chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, Rick Santorum (of homosexual controversy fame).

pocket universe (usage: 'arguments proliferate indefinitely in the pocket universe of the ship') in the context, the ship is merely a container, with the crew/passengers being pure software;

for a small population semi-isolated from the main body of society, it is a reflection that no matter how hip and intelligent any given group could be, it is impossible for a 'small town' to be as creative as a 'large city';

A basilisk is a visual representation which causes harm (usually death) by triggering a thought which the human brain is physically or logically incapable of thinking.

Artificial Synapses Could Lead to Brainier, Super-Efficient Computers

Brains, beyond their signature achievements in thinking and problem solving, are paragons of energy efficiency.

In contrast, one of the world’s largest and fastest supercomputers, the K computer in Kobe, Japan, consumes as much as 9.89 megawatts of energy—an amount roughly equivalent to the power usage of 10,000 households.

They are building a device, perhaps the first one, that is “inspired by the brain to generate the properties that enable the brain to do what it does,” according to Adam Stieg, a research scientist and associate director of the institute, who leads the project with Jim Gimzewski, a professor of chemistry at UCLA.

The network’s electrical activity also displays a property unique to complex systems like the brain: “criticality,” a state between order and chaos indicative of maximum efficiency.

After using scanning tunneling microscopes to look at electronics at the atomic scale for 20 years, he said, “I was tired of perfection and precise control [and] got a little bored with reductionism.” In 2007, he accepted an invitation to study single atomic switches developed by a group that Masakazu Aono led at the International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics in Tsukuba, Japan.

Applying voltage to the devices pushes positively charged silver ions out of the silver sulfide and toward the silver cathode layer, where they are reduced to metallic silver.

Then, one fall day in 2010, while Avizienis and his fellow graduate student Henry Sillin were increasing the input voltage to the device, they suddenly saw the output voltage start to fluctuate, seemingly at random, as if the mesh of wires had come alive.

“That was really jaw-dropping,” Avizienis said, describing it as “the first [time] we pulled a power law out of this.” Power laws describe mathematical relationships in which one variable changes as a power of the other.

They apply to systems in which larger scale, longer events are much less common than smaller scale, shorter ones—but are also still far more common than one would expect from a chance distribution.

Per Bak, the Danish physicist who died in 2002, first proposed power laws as hallmarks of all kinds of complex dynamical systems that can organize over large timescales and long distances.

Power-law behavior, he said, indicates that a complex system operates at a dynamical sweet spot between order and chaos, a state of “criticality” in which all parts are interacting and connected for maximum efficiency.

As Bak predicted, power-law behavior has been observed in the human brain: In 2003, Dietmar Plenz, a neuroscientist with the National Institutes of Health, observed that groups of nerve cells activated others, which in turn activated others, often forming systemwide activation cascades.

Plenz found that the sizes of these cascades fell along a power-law distribution, and that the brain was indeed operating in a way that maximized activity propagation without risking runaway activity.

Gimzewski and Stieg later found an additional similarity between the silver network and the brain: Just as a sleeping human brain shows fewer short activation cascades than a brain that’s awake, brief activation states in the silver network become less common at lower energy inputs.

With traditional machines, he said, “literally, you could run France on the electricity that it would take to simulate a full human brain at moderate resolution.” If devices like the silver wire network can eventually solve tasks as effectively as machine-learning algorithms running on traditional computers, they could do so using only one-billionth as much power.

Earlier this year at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco, Gimzewski, Stieg and their colleagues presented the results of an experiment in which they fed the device the first three years of a six-year data set of car traffic in Los Angeles, in the form of a series of pulses that indicated the number of cars passing by per hour.

“I’d like that,” he said, adding that this was why he was trying to get his students to study atomic switch networks—“before they catch me making a fortune.” Original story reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication of the Simons Foundation whose mission is to enhance public understanding of science by covering research developments and trends in mathematics and the physical and life sciences.

A new brain-inspired architecture could improve how computers handle data and advance AI

'If you look at human beings, we compute with 20 to 30 watts of power, whereas AI today is based on supercomputers which run on kilowatts or megawatts of power,' Sebastian said.

The first level exploits a memory device's state dynamics to perform computational tasks in the memory itself, similar to how the brain's memory and processing are co-located.

The second level draws on the brain's synaptic network structures as inspiration for arrays of phase change memory (PCM) devices to accelerate training for deep neural networks.

By applying electrical pulses, the researchers modulated the ratio of material in the crystalline and the amorphous phases so the phase change memory devices could support a continuum of electrical resistance or conductance.

Last year, they ran an unsupervised machine learning algorithm on a conventional computer and a prototype computational memory platform based on phase change memory devices.

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