[Beowulf] Wired article about Go machine

Lux, James P james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Wed Mar 18 10:34:25 PDT 2009



	From: beowulf-bounces at beowulf.org [mailto:beowulf-bounces at beowulf.org] On Behalf Of Peter St. John
	Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 6:56 AM
	To: Beowulf Mailing List
	Subject: [Beowulf] Wired article about Go machine
	This article at Wired is about Go playing computers: http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/03/gobrain.html
	Includes a pic of a 24 node cluster at Santa Cruz, and a YouTube video of a famous game set to music :-)
	My beef, which started with Ken Thompson saying he was disappointed by how little we learned about human cognition from chess computers, is about statements like this:
	"People hoped that if we had a strong Go program, it would teach us how our minds work. But that's not the case," said Bob Hearn <http://www.dartmouth.edu/%7Erah/> , a Dartmouth College artificial intelligence programmer. "We just threw brute force at a program we thought required intellect."
	And yet the article points out:
	[our brain is an]...efficiently configured biological processor - sporting 1015 neural connections, capable of 1016 calculations per second
	Our brains do brute-force massively distributed computing. We just aren't conscious of most of it.
Of course, those 10 "calculations" per second per neuron are basically logical operations like AND/OR/NOT with a single bit, and fairly high error rates.  So it's not quite as impressive as all that.  Modern high performance desktop CPUs might have 1E8 transistors, and 4GB of memory accounts for another 4E10.. Let's call it 1E11 "active" devices, running at, say, 1E8 operations/second, so we're up to 1E19 "calculations per second" which is 3 orders of magnitude more than the count attributed up to the brain.

The brain is pretty fault tolerant, but also can't run at full compute load for 24/7.

See for instance, Crichton, "The Terminal Man", 1972 which introduced the term "watershed week" (not that it actually exists) for when the total information processing capacity of all computers exceeds that of all humans (Crichton gives March 1969, but hey, it's fiction)
Clarke has a short story along the same lines, except he's talking about telephone switching systems."Dial F for Frankenstein". (and Clarke wrote about a potential hazard of high performance computing in "The Nine Billion Names of God")

For a really, really turgid look at such things, I ran across
Hahn, Torsten.
Risk Communication and Paranoid Hermenutics: Towards a Distinction Between "Medical Thrillers" and "Mind-Control Thrillers" in Narrations on Biocontrol
New Literary History - Volume 36, Number 2, Spring 2005, pp. 187-204

See... If the members of the list hadn't done the hard science/engineering/math route, you could have majored in a more liberal arts and wound up writing about things like "paranoid hermenutics". From the abstract:
"  Industrial society in its specific modernity is shown as a sociological form of the past, which has already been replaced by what is called risk society. According to this suggestion, the society we live in can no longer be understood by observing politics, for it is marked by different subpolitics operating beyond democratic legitimation. "


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