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The Coming War on General Computation

General pur­pose com­put­ers are in fact astound­ing. So astound­ing that our soci­ety is still strug­gling to come to grips with them. To fig­ure out what they’re for. To fig­ure out how to accom­mo­date them and how to cope with them.

The Cellular Basis of Neural Computation

Over the past cen­tu­ry, we’ve been to the moon, we’ve split the atom, we’ve sequenced the human genome, but were still only at the very begin­ning of our under­stand­ing of the human brain. This is one of the great chal­lenges that we face. If we can under­stand the brain, we can devel­op bet­ter treat­ments for brain dis­or­ders, we can design bet­ter robots, bet­ter com­put­ers, and ulti­mate­ly we can bet­ter under­stand our­selves.

Towards a Quantum Computer

From vast data cen­ters to mobile phones, the pow­er of com­put­ers con­tin­ues to trans­form our lives. But there are some prob­lems across arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, in the design of new mate­ri­als, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, and clean ener­gy devices that they will sim­ply nev­er solve. So even if we turned our entire plan­et into a giant super­com­put­er we wouldn’t be able to solve these and many oth­er impor­tant prob­lems. The good news is that if we could build a com­put­ing device based on fun­da­men­tal quan­tum prin­ci­ples, we could.

Realizing a Brain on a Chip

If we want to con­tin­ue increas­ing the per­for­mance of our com­put­ers, we need to rethink the way we com­pute. And our brains are won­der­ful proof that impres­sive com­pu­ta­tions can be car­ried out with a very low pow­er bud­get.

ENIAC Programmers Keynote at WITI New York Network Meeting 1998

I applied and went over and they just talked to us a lit­tle bit. We nev­er saw the machine or any­thing. So then they called us in and Herman Goldstine, who was the Army offi­cer liai­son com­ing in from Aberdeen, inter­viewed me. So Herman said to me, What do you think of elec­tric­i­ty?”

So I said, Well, I had a physics course and I knew that E=IR.”

So he said, No, I don’t mean that. I don’t care about that. Are you afraid of it?”

The Computer as Extended Phenotype

The com­put­er is being used for so many things that I claim that we have to con­sid­er the com­put­er as part of our extend­ed phe­no­type. It’s just a part of a thing that has evolved with us using memes.

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