Re: "analog computer" = useless hypothesis?

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Tue Apr 03 2001 - 15:52:46 MDT

Jim Fehlinger wrote,
> ... It's certainly true that most of
> the talk about AI on this list has been in terms of
> software running on some sort of digital substrate
> ("computronium", or whatever), but that's not the only
> way AI or SI could happen.

We don't know (for sure) how it could happen.
For all we know, intelligence invariably reaches a level where it understands
that reality eternally repeats itself. From there, the cleverest strategy may
involve a hasty retreat back into forgetfulness.

> While digital integrated circuits might be the most
> glamorous electronics on the market these days, don't
> forget that there are still linear ICs being manufactured!
> It's altogether conceivable that a non-biological AI or
> upload could use molecular or nano-scale **linear** devices
> as processing elements! Such a contraption might not be
> quite as tame inside as we probably visualize -- most of us
> probably think of some sort of 3D crystalline lattice of
> nanotubes with nothing but electrons flashing around, and with
> all the action happening in software, rather than something that
> might look more like Babbage's (or Gibson and Sterling's)
> Difference Engine, with gears and whirlygigs making and
> breaking connections or aiming little laser beams around,
> or scurrying nanobots. Or what about an AI/SI made
> out of honest-to-God biological tissue, but freed from the
> confines of a human skull and serviced by nanobots (yes,
> that idea gives me the creeps, too. Too _Last and First
> Men_).

It's also possible that the human brain forms 3D images by actually connecting
neurons in 3D patterns that map to sensory experience. Again, none of this
requires conjuring analog computation.

> I get the impression that's the way Kurzweil thinks AI
> will happen -- he talks about the brain as a "digitally-
> controlled analog system", and I think he thinks we're
> going to get to AI by reverse-engineering the human
> brain.

Not to misrepresent Kurzweil, but he probably knows that computers will do
most of the work when it comes to engineering human-competitive machine
intelligence. In fact, accurate reverse-engineering the human brain encourages
the implementation of many human-competitive expert systems working
collaboratively. AI will continue to develop from the "collaboratory" (check
out their site) of human invention and well-managed market forces.

> Maybe a partly analog phase will be a necessary **transition**
> on the way to all-digital AI and/or uploads

But I no longer believe in analog computers, so for me, partly analog equates
to partly ludicrous.

> Here's a deep question: would an analog AI constructed out
> of vacuum tubes have a "mellower" personality than one
> made out of transistors? ;-> ;-> ;->

Yes, because analog AI exists only in the mellow imaginations of 60s dreamers.


Stay hungry,

--J. R.

Useless hypotheses:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing

Buy this book:
(or Fred will write another one)

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