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Archive for the 'Complexity' Category


Posted by J. Storrs Hall on September 4th, 2009

Previous: What Singularity? Yesterday I took issue with Alfred Nordmann’s IEEE post in which he claimed that technological progress was slowing down instead of accelerating. I claimed instead that it was being distorted by the needs of the next rungs of the Maslow hierarchy, and that a huge portion of society’s energy was going into [...]


Posted by J. Storrs Hall on September 2nd, 2009

If you were an alien from an advanced civilization who had been stranded on Earth, but had all your people’s knowledge on a thumb drive, how would you go about creating nanotech and building up Earth’s technology to the level you could rejoin your galactic civilization? If you actually knew the details, probably one of [...]

Good enough … intelligence

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on September 1st, 2009

A couple of bloggers have noted the article at Wired about the Good Enough “revolution.” After some trial and error, Pure Digital released what it called the Flip Ultra in 2007. The stripped-down camcorder—like the Single Use Digital Camera—had lots of downsides. It captured relatively low-quality 640 x 480 footage at a time when Sony, [...]

The Black Box Fallacy

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on August 26th, 2009

Consider this marvelous story by Richard Feynman: (watch it now, this won’t make too much sense otherwise) Feynman and his friend John Tukey discover that they have completely different internal ways of thinking, or at least of counting, even though they are using the same words to talk about what it is they’re doing. Consider [...]

Singularity or Bust

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on August 25th, 2009

It’s a question of some interest whether the Singularity will consist of just more exponential growth, or whether some superexponential growth mode is likely to happen (or is even possible), such as would be required for a real mathematical singularity. On the side of exponential growth, as I pointed out here, is the fact that [...]


Posted by J. Storrs Hall on July 30th, 2009

There’s a very nice post at IEET by Marcelo Rinesi entitled Education and Learning: Still in the Middle Ages. He points out that we’re pretty damn bad at education compared to the improvements we’ve seen in most other endeavors: Our lecture halls are better than those of the Middle Ages, our textbooks friendlier than those [...]

A cautionary note, concluded

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on June 15th, 2009

Last week I posted a story of strange behavior in the simulation of molecular machines. One commenter asked if this was due to something unusual in the starting configuration of the atoms. This was the first thing we investigated, and didn’t seem to be the case. There was a small amount to strain energy in [...]

A cautionary note

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on June 12th, 2009

One of the constraints laid down by DARPA at the recent Physical Intelligence proposers workshop was that the model of intelligence that was to be proposed had to have a physical implementation. It seemed odd to some of the attendees that this should be a hard constraint, since many models of intelligence have a perfectly [...]

Negative resistance

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on May 21st, 2009

If you connect a 12-volt battery to a 4-ohm lamp, 3 amps of current will flow through the circuit by Ohm’s Law, V=IR. Power = VI = 36 watts will be dissipated by the lamp. If you add a 2-ohm resistor in series with the lamp, the resistances add to 6 ohms, the current is [...]

Do the math

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on May 20th, 2009

There is at Technology Review’s arXiv blog an article “How to find bugs in giant software programs.” It’s an overview of a paper on arXiv which is a statistical study of program sizes and bug distributions in the Eclipse dataset of Java programs. TR says, So how are errors distributed among these programs? It would [...]

Complex molecular nanotechnology systems to be built in Netherlands

Posted by Christine Peterson on April 21st, 2008

It’s great to see ambitious goals being set in nanotechnology, like these “molecular mini-factories“. Researchers from a wide range of disciplines at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) will be joining forces in the Institute for Complex Molecular Systems (ICMS). They will be investigating the exact mechanism behind self-organization, the principle behind all life on earth. [...]

Excess nanotechnology conservatism is too radical

Posted by Christine Peterson on August 15th, 2007

An opinion piece in IEEE Spectrum by Cientifica business development director Dexter Johnson is so conservative in its views that it crosses over into being truly radical. On designer materials: In fact, we are so far from that goal it’s not clear whether we will ever be able to overcome all the obstacles. Not ever? [...]

Nanotechnology and the wildcard of advanced software

Posted by Christine Peterson on August 13th, 2007

Nanotech experiments using real molecules are expensive and slow. Progress in nanotechnology would be greatly increased by highly advanced software truly able to model how molecules interact to make materials, devices, and systems. What are the odds of highly advanced software — machine intelligence — being developed any time soon? Explore this question at the [...]

Nanotechnology patent problems blamed on unionization

Posted by Christine Peterson on April 9th, 2007

Small Times reports on a meeting held in Oregon among a wide variety of nanotechnology-based business participants, at which many commercialization challenges were discussed. One was difficulties encountered with the U.S. Patent office: Start-ups expressed frustration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Long waits for patent award decisions make it difficult for them [...]

Windows Vista: potential negative impact on nanotechnology

Posted by Christine Peterson on February 12th, 2007

John Walker brings to our attention an apparently distressing set of concerns regarding the new version of Windows, known as Vista, written up by Peter Gutman as A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection. Excerpts: The only way to protect the HFS [Hardware Functionality Scan] process therefore is to not release any technical details [...]

Nanotechnology patent delays bad for (almost) everyone

Posted by Christine Peterson on November 27th, 2006

A story by Jon Van describes the growing backlog of nanotechnology patent applications: As the time it takes to process patent applications now averages almost four years, double the time it took in 2004, nanotech entrepreneurs are beginning to worry that their ability to raise money to develop products may be stifled. It’s not just [...]

Nanotechnology patents delayed, nanotech public understanding mixed

Posted by Christine Peterson on August 21st, 2006

We don’t usually like to link to subscription sites, but as an editorial advisory board member, I’ll make an exception for Nanotech Briefs (you can download a free sample). The August issue has the usual hard-core technical news: SiGe transistor operates at frequencies above 500 GHz, Method creates hollow nanocrystals, nanopore technique sequences DNA [note: [...]

IFTF predicts nanotech 50 years out

Posted by Christine Peterson on May 24th, 2006

This week I’m attending the Institute for the Future’s meeting titled Beyond the Horizon: Science & Technology in Ten, Twenty & Fifty Years. Overall, it’s great and I recommend it. Reminds me of Foresight’s Vision Weekends. Tomorrow I’ll be presenting our Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems project at one of the breakouts. The meeting was [...]

Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines book now free online

Posted by Christine Peterson on October 10th, 2005

Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines (KSRM), the book co-authored by Robert A. Freitas Jr. and Ralph C. Merkle, was published on paper in 2004, but the book is now freely accessible online . With 200+ illustrations and 3200+ literature references, KSRM describes all proposed and experimentally realized self-replicating systems that were publicly known as of 2004, ranging [...]

DNA based Cellular Automata

Posted by RobertBradbury on April 10th, 2005

Erik Winfree's group at CALTECH, led by Paul Rothemund, is reporting in PLOS that they have successfully implemented DNA based cellular automata. It is uses two-dimensional self-assembly of DNA tiles to produce Sierpinski triangles. Technology Research News has a summary article and Slashdot may have additional discussion.