Re: Singularity Worship

James Rogers (
Mon, 16 Dec 1996 13:13:02 -0800

At 10:15 PM 12/13/96 -0800, you wrote:
>On Fri, 13 Dec 1996 James Rogers <> Wrote:
> >I *do* understand, in intimate detail, how a computer

> >produces arithmetic results on the lowest level.
>You have a very general idea about how it works but not for specific examples,
>and God is in the details. A child would say, I know how a computer can do
>arithmetic, you plug it in, turn it on, type in the problem, and that causes
>the answer to appear on the screen. The child would be perfectly correct too,
>as far as it goes. You and I have a little deeper understanding about what
>is going on, but not deep enough.

I fail to understand what you are getting at. I have taken many courses in
computer architecture. I am familiar with evolution of very low level as
well as higher level constructs. I have even designed and fabricated simple
integrated circuits from scratch. I could design a basic ALU from the
ground up if I had to. I even understand how and why different types of
transistors and transistor materials do what they do on a chemical level.
What part don't I understand?

> >If we didn't, we wouldn't be able to build them.
>You're saying that if we don't understand what a machine does we couldn't
>design it. The same child could design a machine that will move an object in
>water and create a turbulent flow. Do you understand turbulence?

Actually, yes. I *do* understand turbulence (as well as anyone does). I
spent quite a bit of time studying and modeling mass transport phenomena
including boundary layer phenomena and laminar/turbulent flow transitions.
Turbulence is actually a good example on your part, since it is a chaotic
system that is described in engineering as a mostly empirical phenomenon.
But our difficulty in adequately describing turbulence has to do with the
complexity of the system, a level of complexity not found in the study of
elementary arithmetic logic structures.

I have formal education in chemical engineering, despite my career in the
software industry. Turbulence is a standard part of chemical engineering
programs and I did significant research in the area of turbulent flows while
at the university. But you probably would not have known this. :-)

It sounds like you are saying that it is impossible for humans to truly
understand anything. I might possibly be able to grant this (tentatively)
for some general physics-like knowledge because we don't know everything.
But I find it difficult to subscribe to the thought that we don't "really"
understand constructs that we conceived of and designed from the ground up,
especially abstract constructs. Computer computation is an abstract concept
of which computers are only one expression. You can duplicate the binary
computational sequence by arranging and moving pebbles. This to me, the
ability to express the construct on any substrate, indicates a clear
understanding of the phenomenon.

-James Rogers