# Local machines

Suppose there is a deep conjecture which haunts the imagination of a part of the mathematical community. By the common work of many, maybe even spread over several centuries and continents, slowly a solution emerges and the conjecture becomes a theorem. Beautiful, or at least horrendously complex theoretical machinery is invented and put to the task. Populations of family members experienced extreme boredom when faced to the answers of the question “what are you thinking about?”. Many others expressed a moderate curiosity in the weird preoccupations of those mathematicians, some, say, obsessed with knots or zippers or other childish activities. Finally, a constructive solution is found. This is very very rare and much sought for, mind you, because once we have a constructive solution then we may run it on a computer. So we do it, perhaps for the immense benefit of the finance industry.

Now here is the weird part. No matter what programming discipline is used, no matter which are programmers preferences and beliefs, the computer which runs the program is a local machine, which functions without any appeal to meaning.

I stop a bit to explain what is a local machine. Things are well known, but maybe is better to have them clear in front of the eyes. Whatever happens in a computer, it is only physically local modifications of it’s state. If we look at the Turing machine (I’ll not argue about the fact that computers are not exactly TMs, let’s take this as a simplification which does not affect the main point), then we can describe it as well as a stateless Turing machine, simply by putting the states of the machine on the tape, and reformulating the behaviour of the machine as a family of rewrite rules on local portions of the tape. It is fully possible, well known, and it has the advantage to work even if we don’t add one or many moving heads into the story, or indirection, or other ingredient than the one that these rewrites are done randomly. Believe it or not (if not then read

Turing machines, chemlambda style
http://chorasimilarity.github.io/chemlambda-gui/dynamic/turingchem.html

for an example) but that is a computer, indifferently of what technological complexities are involved into really making one.

(this is an animation showing a harmonious interaction between a chemical molecule derived from a lambda term, in the upper side of the image, and a Turing machine whose tape is visible in the lower side of the image)

Let’s get back to the algorithmic form of the solution of the mathematical problem. On the theoretical side there are lots of high meanings and they were discovered by a vast social collaboration.

But the algorithm run by the computer, in the concrete form it is run, edits out any such meaning. It is a well prepared initial tape (say “intelligently designed”, hope you have taken your daily dose of humour), which is then stupidly, randomly, locally rewritten until there’s no more reaction possible. Gives the answer.

If it is possible to advance a bit, even with this severe constraint to ignore global semantics, then maybe we find really new stuff, which is not visible under all these decorations called “intelligent”, or high level.

[Source:

# Alife vs AGI

Artificial general intelligence  is, of course, on the top of the mind of some of the best or most interesting researchers. In the post Important research avenues on my mind, Ben Goertzel writes:

1. AGI, obviously … creating robots and virtual-world robots that move toward human-level general intelligence

….

5. Build a massive graph database of all known info regarding all organisms, focused on longevity and associated issues, and set an AI to work mining patterns from it… I.e. what I originally wanted to do with my Biomind initiative, but didn’t have the \$ for…

6. Automated language learning — use Google’s or Microsoft’s databases of text to automatically infer a model of human natural languages, to make a search engine that really understands stuff.  This has overlap with AGI but isn’t quite the same thing…

7. I want to say femtotech as I’m thinking about that a fair bit lately but it probably won’t yield fruit in the next few years…

….

9. Nanotech-using-molecular-bio-tools and synthetic biology seem to be going interesting places, but I don’t follow those fields that closely, so I hope you’re pinging someone else who knows more about them…

I believe that 9 is far more likely to achieve sooner than 1. Will explain a bit later, after looking a bit at the frame of mind which, I think, constrains this ordering.

AGI is the queen, the graal, something which almost everybody dreams to see. It is an old dream. Recent advances in cognition show that yeah, we, Natural general intelligence beings, are kind of robots with many, many processes going in parallel in the background, all of them giving the feeling of reality. On top of all these processes are the ones related to consciousness and high level functioning of the brain. It is admirable to try to model those, but it is naive, and coming from a old way of seeing things, to believe that the other processes are somehow not as interesting, or not really needed, or simply they are too mechanical, anyway, not something which is a challenge. Reality is that we now know that we even don’t have the right frame of mind to understand how to understand the functioning of those neglected, God given processes.

So, that is why I believe that AGI is not realistic. Unless we concentrate on language, or other really puny aspects of GI, but with lots of traditions.

Btw, have I told you that whatever I write, I am always happy to be contradicted?

The points 5 and 6 look indeed very probable. Will be done by corporations, that is sure. Somehow is the same thing behind, namely that there is an essence of the pyramidal way of thinking, such that with enough means, knowledge will accumulate on top of that pyramid. (For the point 1 intelligence is the top and for 5 and 6 corporations are on top, of course).

As regards the point 7, that starts to be genuinely new, therefore less fashionable. The idea of a single molecule quantum computer springs into mind. Should be known better. [See the comments at this G+ post.]

Several concepts are now under development to make a calculation using a single molecule:
1) to force a molecule to look like a classical electronic circuit but integrated inside the molecule
2) to divide the molecule into “qubits” in order to exploit the quantum engineering developed since several years around quantum computers.
3) to use intramolecular dynamical quantum behavior without dividing molecules into “qubits” leading to Hamiltonian quantum computer

Now, to point 9!

It can be clearly done by a combination of decentralized computing with artificial chemistry.

In a future post I shall describe with details, by using also previous posts from chorasimilarity, which are the ingredients and what are the arguments in favour of this idea.

In this post I want to propose a challenge.  What I have in mind, rather vague  but might be fun, would be to develop through exchanges a “what if” world, where, for example, not AI is the interesting thing when it comes about computers, but artificial biology. Not consciousness, but metabolism, not problem solving, but survival. Also related to the IoT which is a bridge between two worlds. Now, the virtual world could be as alive as the real one. Alive in the Avida sense,  in the sense that it might be like a jungle, with self-reproducing, metabolic artificial beings occupying all virtual niches, beings which are designed by humans, for various purposes. The behaviour of these virtual creatures is not limited to the virtual, due to the IoT bridge.  Think that if I can play a game in a virtual world (i.e. interact both ways with a virtual world) then why not a virtual creature can’t interact with the real world? Humans and social manipulations included.

If you start to think about this possibility, then it looks a bit like this. OK, let’s write such autonomous, decentralized, self sustained computations to achieve a purpose. May be any purpose which can be achieved by computation, be it secure communications, money replacements, or low level AI city management. What stop others to write their creatures, one for example for the fun of it,  of writing across half of the world the name Justin by building at right GPS coordinates sticks with small mirrors on top, so that from orbit all shine the pixels of that name.  Recall the IoT bridge and the many effects in the real world which can be achieved by really distributed, but cooperative computations and human interactions. Next: why don’t write a virus to get rid of all these distributed jokes of programs which run low level in all phones, antennas and fridges? A virus to kill those viruses. A super quick self-reproducer to occupy as much as possible of the cheap computing  capabilities. A killer of it. And so on. A seed, like in Neal Stephenson, only that the seed is not real, but virtual, and it does not work on nanotechnology, but on any technology connected to the net via IoT.

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