Thursday, March 02, 2006

Universe to hit computation limit in the 22nd c

Ray Kurzweil's "The Singularity is Near" gives play and synthesis to a variety of powerful and provocative ideas at multiple levels.

One of the broadest threads is that the implicit goal of intelligence (either human integrated and uploaded to a digital platform or AI) is to expand itself, meaning to (in the usual sci fi theme) increase its computational capacity by turning as much, and finally all, of the matter and energy in the universe into computing power.

Given Moore's Law and the other familiar exponentiating curves of technology development, Kurzweil estimates that intelligence will reach the full compute capability limit of the matter and energy in the universe sometime in the 22nd century.

The total compute capacity / matter and energy of the human brain is 10^16, of all humans 10^26, of the solar system 10^80 and of the universe 10^94 (although Seth Lloyd has estimated that the maximum capacity of a universe-sized computer would be 10^90 which takes into account the compute capability of all of the particles in the universe). Considering that visible (to humans) matter is only 4% of the universe and that dark energy (73%) and dark matter (23%) could also be used for computronium only raises us to 10^95.

In Seth Lloyd's new book, "Programming the Universe," he suggests that the compute capability of the universe grows over time, however, probably not fast enough to compete with exponentiating curves.

This analysis also assumes that our flavor of intelligence is the only one using the compute resources of the universe.

The solutions are of course obvious, first, as Kurzweil suggests, if possible, to modify the laws of physics (of which we do not yet have a deep understanding), particularly the speed of light and gravity to travel to or create new universes into which intelligence can expand or second, to use black holes for as a more efficient computation medium.

To survive, future intelligence must either modify its demand for computronium or accede to one or more other venues.