Infinitely fast computer

Hal Finney (
Fri, 11 Oct 1996 16:31:02 -0700

An idea I've been amusing myself with a bit, relating to the question
of how hard it will be to generate AI using nanotech is this: suppose a
genii gives you an infinitely fast computer. This is a computer just
like today's, programmable in C or Lisp or some other language, which
had the property that it runs infinitely fast. Any program you put on
it completes instantly (unless it is of the type which never completes,
in which case it runs forever until you halt it). All computation is
done in zero time. We'll also throw in infinite memory while we're at
it, although I'm not sure how big the C pointers have to be then :-).

The question is, given such a miraculous device, how hard would it be
for you, meaning the typical programmer reading this, to produce a program
which could pass the Turing test, or better still one which is super-
intelligent? Where would you start? How long would it take you to write
the code? What research would you have to do? Could it even be done?

Or, if it is too hard for one average person to do, what would be the
team which could do it? How long do you think it would take? How big
would the resulting program be?

What I'm trying to get at in this thought experiment is just how hard
it would be to get AI if we had computers which were not infinitely
fast, but still very very fast (or more properly, parallel computers
with extremely massive degrees of parallelism) as we might expect from
nanotech. So it would be most interesting if the solution works for
computers which aren't quite infinitely fast. But if there were some
trick which worked especially well on infinitely fast computers that
would be interesting to hear about, too.