Re: The Spike: Commentary #2

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Mon Jan 17 2000 - 09:25:46 MST

Robert B. comments on Damien B.'s "Spike":
> >the `dirt' theory ... by Stephen Witham. `Any sufficiently advanced
> >communication is indistinguishable from noise.'
>A good point, also made by Minsky ...
> > Anyway, computer design is well understood, and data routing and
> > bit-exchanges don't look one whit like noisy dirt. Get out of here!
>Whomever said this should leave their computer modem speaker "on"
>when they connect at anything above 4800-9600 bps. It sounds like
>static. They don't understand anything about Shannon's theories.

I think Damien is quoting me here. Yes of course bit streams sent
between distant parts of advanced computers should look like noise.
But I was talking about the physical arragement of the inside of the

Stephen's dirt theory is that all the rocks, dirt, trees, etc. you see
around you are actually advanced super-computers disguised to look and act
like rocks, dirt, etc. All the apparent noise in the exact arrangement of
atoms, i.e., details that we tend to think of as accidental, are by this
theory actually carefully positioned to support efficient computation. It is
this dirt theory that I was rejecting. Would you really support it?

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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