The chemistry of Neuromancer feat. Breaking the x86 Instruction Set

I understood something about the size of the molecular machines which implement something like chemlambda or chemSKI in the cell.

A chemist probably stares in disbelief when reading:

” Lambda calculus, or more precisely graph rewrites systems inspired from it, can be taken as first principles when designing molecular computers.”

That is because tiny modifications of molecules produce huge effects. It can’t work this way. There’s no lego bricks tricks which can achieve this. It can’t be that simple.

I read recently the excellent post from 2018 The chemistry of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and as a mathematician I starred in disbelief when I saw that, for example [source of the image]

the almost identical structure of cocaine, atropine and scopolamine.

Who isn’t a fan of the overall universe of Neuromancer? We live in a more complex version of it.

Just that I don’t buy into the semantic side of it, here I’m special wrt to the main CS thinking, but maybe I get a virtual nod from the chemistry thinking when I say that chemistry is asemantic.

There’s a slide in Artificial physics for artificial chemistries which shows

The Matrix: what does it mean?

“still he’d see the matrix in his sleep, bright lattices of logic unfolding across that colorless void” (William Gibson, Neuromancer)


Blade Runner: is this alive?

So it has to be that the molecular machinery is much BIGger than those tiny structures which we can play with.

We can play with some instruction though. Have you seen the very instructive Breaking the x86 Instruction Set? The presentation is on youtube:

The abstract says

“We’ll disclose new x86 hardware glitches, previously unknown machine instructions, ubiquitous software bugs, and flaws in enterprise hypervisors. Best of all, we’ll release our sandsifter toolset, so that you can audit – and break – your own processor.”

We kind of have access to some of the instructions, in RNA or DNA, these we understand they exist. But the molecular machine (aka the processor) has to be bigger.

Like in the fuzzing of the x86 processor, small differences in tiny molecules can sometimes produce signs of big effects.

Likewise, even if the principle of asemantic graph rewrite system is reasonable for bio-chemistry, it might mean that the mathematical graph structures considered in chemlambda are implemented in reality via big molecular chunks, which makes the search for such structures harder.

There is the possibility though to find some simpler chunks which then would embedd some manifestations of life into otherwise not living chemistry. Like a plane versus a bird.

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