Infinitely fast computer

John K Clark (
Sat, 12 Oct 1996 20:54:22 -0700 (PDT)


On Fri, 11 Oct 1996 Hal Finney <> Wrote:

>suppose a genii gives you an infinitely fast computer. [...]
>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?

Why not develop intelligence the same way the earth did, after all, we know
for sure it works. We can in principle simulate anything perfectly, in
practice however, when we try to do this for anything except perhaps a
Hydrogen atom, we are stopped by the computational complexity of Quantum
Mechanics. Obviously this is no problem for an infinite computer, in fact,
although some things would still be impossible, if a task was possible then
it would be easy, nothing would be hard.

Simulate an atom then a molecule then an ocean. We know approximately what
the conditions were like on the early earth, but maybe a very specific
initial condition is needed for life to evolve. This is no obstacle for an
infinite computer, just simulate all possible conditions, it's is a VERY
large number but no closer to being infinite than the number 1 is, it will
take 0 seconds to do it. Maybe most paths do not lead life to intelligence,
but we know of at least one that does, and our computer will find it with no
trouble and probably many more. What if I'm not a very good programmer and
only got a C in Quantum Mechanics? No problem, just keep changing things and
diddling around, eventually ( correction, instantly!) you will get everything
right and things will start to evolve. 0 seconds after that, your simulated
life forms will make a major scientific discovery, they will find a way to
make a computer that is infinitely fast, now their machine is as fast as
yours, and then ...

Unfortunately I don't expect to see an infinitely fast computer this side of
The Omega Point, but you can do a lot even if it's just astronomically fast.
Drexler calculated the amount of computer power needed to simulate ALL the
brains that have ever existed before humanity, that is, all the brains since
brains were invented in the Cambrian Explosion 570 million years ago.
He concluded that about 10^38 machine instructions would do the trick.
A Nanotechnology computer the size of a large present day factory and using
no more power, could perform 10^38 machine instructions in about 2 years.

John K Clark

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