Raw unadulterated computational power

Filed under: thoughts @ 17:15

Imagine a bee. A complex individual with its own thought processes resulting from native task prioritizing schemas, error handling systems, creativity and ingenuity centers (read “random number generators”), decision making algorithms (complete with dilemma rectifiers), and means of interfacing with both the environement in general and other bee individuals.

Now imagine another bee. Another complex individual, similar, but not necessarily exactly the same as the first. Both bees are capable of interacting with other bees. Therefore, two bees can interact with each other and, a priori, we cannot dismiss the idea that two bees can perform functions which one bee or even two uncoupled bees cannot. To consider the most general case, assume that this “greater than the sum of the parts” (a misnomer, to some) behavior, indeed, occurs.

Imagine further a thousand bees. Each relegated (even arbitrarily or randomly) to a specific task. I’ll let you count the number of naive two-body, three-body, etc. interactions that are possible, but I will tell you it’s a lot. The hive is a tremendously complicated system: complicated individuals, and complicated interactions. (Note, though, that the emergent properties of the hive can be relatively simple depending on the scale at which it’s viewed.) The hive is computationally powerful.

Put that all aside for a moment.

Instead, imagine the biggest dump truck you have ever seen. Double it in size. It is still not as large as the gargantuan machines used in, say, copper mines. These things have tires more than three meters tall. They can carry hundreds of tons of material. Mammoth machines. Utterly massive. But they are nothing compared to masses and forces involved in the internal movement of the earth’s crust: plate tectonics. Sheets the size of continents (literally), moving and shifting with respect to one another. Titans battling each other day by day, inch by inch. Some winning, some losing.

Imagine planets orbiting the sun. The Sun orbiting around the galactic core. Galaxies clustering. Vast expanses of interstellar space. Incomprehensible bigness.

Now. Imagine putting those two things together: bee hives and galactic dynamics. Think of it, perhaps, as a hive comprised of mind bogglingly large and complicated structures. This object you’re thinking of is tremendously powerful; physically and computationally, though at this scale there may not be much difference between the two.

There. A mighty concept. If you can comprehend that, you’ve got a pretty firm grasp on exactly what the current administration is not. These people are insignificant morons with only the power to screw the rest of us dust specks over. At least the rest of the universe will keep on ticking.


    xaosseed 03.18.2005 @ 17:55

    He-ey, he said *responsible* exploration! They’ll stack all the polar bears and crap in a shed somewhere and put them back where they’re done! Stop rocking the boat! Why do you hate freedom?

    Kristján 03.18.2005 @ 20:40

    That’s a long way to say Bush is teh s0x0r!!one. Nice though.

    Brendan Hammond 03.18.2005 @ 23:27

    I enjoyed the way you led up to your golden nugget of wisdom.

    Laurel 03.19.2005 @ 03:14

    From McSweeney’s “Things I’d Probably Say If the Bush Administration Were Just a Weekly TV Show and I Were a Regular Viewer”:

    “Now, see, you can’t just go and do something like that. That would be illegal.”

    “Boy, someone’s gonna get fired for that.”

    “Wasn’t that the one who made all the mistakes? Why is she getting promoted?”

    “Come on, in real life you’d never get away with something like that.”

    “They really expect us to believe that?”

    “Am I the only one confused here?”

    “Does this make any sense to you?”

    “Why is this still on?”

    Paul.za 03.19.2005 @ 13:16

    I’m sorry, Mike, I lost you for a second there: in the scaling up process, we make something as large as many planets, with the computational power of a networked bees. But when doing so, are we keeping the processing power per unit mass fixed, or per number of items? Because if it’s only the latter, you get a system of huge inertia, throwing around tons of mass with not much thought per unit mass behind it. Reshaping vast tracts of the status quo with scant regard for the consequences, or the little things that might get squashed… in fact, we’re started to sound not unlike the current administration.

    So, yes, I guess you must mean the former. Well, never mind.

    MDA 03.19.2005 @ 17:18

    A nice clarification, paul.za. I was more going for increasing the complexity and computational power of each of the individual bees (the ‘per unit mass’ take). Your ‘per number of items’ description is perhaps a better one, though, as you point out, not one with which the analogy can be drawn in the same way.

    The post, actually, is kind of crap. At least, it’s not what I intended. I had a vague idea about what I wanted to do/say, but it didn’t work out in the end. So I munged it about until it could be made to hit an easy target.

    Oh, and in addition to hating freedom, I also unilaterally despise all members of the armed forces, high-school football, firemen, southern rock, apple pie, and the elks club.

    Hey Brendan. Nice to hear from you. How’s it going?

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