Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Am I paranoid?

Or is this the sort of chart that Google will one day employ to demonstrate that late model humans should be phased out in favor of more efficient forms of working memory that do not depend on clumsy mechano-magnetic mechanisms?

One of my favorite ideas in Accelerando was that the solution to the Fermi Paradox (if there's lots of other intelligent life in the universe, why haven't we seen it yet) could simply be lack of decent effective bandwidth.

To sketch out the concept a little ... 
  1. Any brain is a distributed system.
  2. No matter how big your brain gets, it still has to be instantiated in some physical form.
  3. A big brain is going to have lots of individual parts, aka matter.
  4. The individual parts have to communicate with one another and be tightly integrated to form an intelligence.

Even if you have the brain the size of a planet, it still has to be relatively dense or the speed of light constraint will introduce too much latency in the information transfer between the parts to do any really serious thinking.  Bandwidth is important to thinking.  Well, effective bandwidth.  The question is actually latency, but if you have to send lots of packets of information back and forth, the two are less different than you might think.


You cannot spread a brain out over cosmic distances (unless you are willing to have it think very slowly).

Since most of the universe is not energy/matter dense, a very large brain will not want to leave the house because the effective bandwidth is going to suck.  It's a long way between planets.  Which means that a big brain is either going to bring the matter to itself, or accept shipping a much smaller version of itself around the cosmos if it wants to get away from home.  Big brains cannot travel light.


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