Message Font: Serif | Sans-Serif
 
UnThreaded | Threaded | Whole Thread (30) | Ignore Thread Prev | Next
Author: GregTrocchia Two stars, 250 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 3856  
Subject: Re: Bill Joy Discusses Nanotech on NPR, Wired Ma Date: 3/17/2000 4:30 AM
Post New | Post Reply | Reply Later | Create Poll Report this Post | Recommend it!
Recommendations: 0
>Yes. His concern seems to revlove around the issue of self-replication, and the "evolution" of computer intelligence as a superior species, in effect (not his exact words). The idea seems crazy, except that many bright minds seem to be thinking about it.<

Maria,

As I pointed out, the smaller the artifact the more difficult it is to make it capable of self-replication. Designing so that the artifact can self replicate outside a carefully controlled environment makes the problem vastly more difficult still. There has also been a lot of thought given to the idea of these devices "evolving" over generations of replication. The short answer is that it probably won't happen and there are straightforward steps to take that make "probably" into "certainly".

To elaborate, living creatures are the end products of giga-years of evolution. In effect, we are evolved to be capable of evolving. Human designed systems have no such legacy. Evolution is facilitated when the thing that is replicating has the characteristic of graceful degradation. If a cosmic ray zaps the chromosome of a dividing cell, the offspring cells are usually still viable, perhaps at some reduced degree (although, very occasionally you get something that helps things by accident, which is the engine of evolution). In designed systems, the ability to degrade gracefully is usually desirable and is difficult to implement. For self replicating systems, you want very "ungraceful" degradation (which is usually what you get as a default anyway). Should this not provide enough certainty, Ralph Merkle pointed out that the software of the replicating systems can be encoded in such a way that any change to any of the instructions will render the whole thing impossible to execute. Since Merkle, prior to his MNT days, was one of the seminal figures in the development of public key cryptography, he knows whereof he speaks.

To, perhaps, make the idea less crazy seeming I would recommend the book "A Fire Upon the Deep" by Vernor Vinge (actually, I would recommend it anyway- it has been my favorite for the better part of a decade). I guess that my take on the concept of our designing our something that will displace us is that it reminds me of a car I once owned. The driver's side door could not be locked while it was open, but the passenger's side could- to prevent you from locking your keys inside. It occurred to me that one could still manage to lock the keys in, but only by working hard at being stupid enough to do it. So, yes, we could design our way into extinction, but we would have to be truly dumb, deserving of a collective "Darwin Award", to manage it.

Thanks for the elucidation

Greg
Post New | Post Reply | Reply Later | Create Poll Report this Post | Recommend it!
Print the post  
UnThreaded | Threaded | Whole Thread (30) | Ignore Thread Prev | Next

Announcements

Pencils of Promise - Back to School Drive
"Pencils of Promise works with communities across the globe to build schools and create programs that provide education opportunities for children."
Post of the Day:
Value Hounds

Considerable Headwinds for Profire Energy?
What was Your Dumbest Investment?
Share it with us -- and learn from others' stories of flubs.
When Life Gives You Lemons
We all have had hardships and made poor decisions. The important thing is how we respond and grow. Read the story of a Fool who started from nothing, and looks to gain everything.
Community Home
Speak Your Mind, Start Your Blog, Rate Your Stocks

Community Team Fools - who are those TMF's?
Contact Us
Contact Customer Service and other Fool departments here.
Work for Fools?
Winner of the Washingtonian great places to work, and "#1 Media Company to Work For" (BusinessInsider 2011)! Have access to all of TMF's online and email products for FREE, and be paid for your contributions to TMF! Click the link and start your Fool career.
Advertisement