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Posted Jun 19, 2008 11:03 UTC (Thu) by corbet (editor, #1)
In reply to: The Kernel Hacker's Bookshelf: Ultimate Physical Limits of Computation by Hanno
Parent article: The Kernel Hacker's Bookshelf: Ultimate Physical Limits of Computation

You missed the book suggestion - it is a worthwhile read - at least much of the first half of it is. One of the things he asserts is that the exponential growth we are seeing now is not "present development"; it is, instead, a trend which has been going on for a good two billion years. Contemporary electronics is just the current substrate upon which the growth of complexity is being carried out.

The notion of the singularity, incidentally, is not necessarily as utopian as you suggest here.

I'm not saying that arguments like Kurzweil's are necessarily correct - no doubt there's plenty of ways to poke holes in them. But it's best to understand them first.

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Posted Jun 19, 2008 11:17 UTC (Thu) by Hanno (guest, #41730) [Link]

You missed the book suggestion

I read it and found it interesting and tiring.

the exponential growth we are seeing now

...would only be "exponential" if it continued. Previously in history, humanity experienced a short period of exponential growth in steam, plastics, atomic power. Where is that exponential innovation now?

Painting this as a trend for two billion years is the result of cherrypicking datapoints.


Posted Jun 21, 2008 0:25 UTC (Sat) by wahern (subscriber, #37304) [Link]

I haven't read the book, but it seems to me that the point is that certain advancements in
computation are universal, and previous industries can be considered as serial advancements in
(or facilitators of) general computational capabilities. So it doesn't matter that
advancements in steam engines were finite; rather that subsequent advancements made possible
by steam engines, no matter the material industry, had the effect of in kind furthering
[exponential] growth in computational capabilities in general.

Theoretical computational advancement can continually progress as long as materials science,
no matter how disjoint, continually provides sufficient capabilities for the realization of
the next rung on the theoretical ladder.

The overall argument is not particularly persuasive, I agree, but not obviously fallacious.

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