Sunday, November 20, 2005

I'm gonna googlarize ya, baby

He goes down in the bowels of the Great Northern Search Company’s cluster server farm. Admires the work of the engineers uploading the works of mankind online. You might think “good going guys” – putting the works of mankind online worthy – and the guys might discern your thinking. And then they jar you saying “we’re doing this for the machines.” Google me with a stick!

On October 31 last, Google ran a full page ad featuring its Halloween Day home page--one on which a morbidly surreal landscape morphs onto Google’s usual logo banner. It’s like pages they’ve done on BloomsDay, Thanksgiving, the anniversary of the first manned Moon landing, and other special days in years past.

For me this one was spooky in an unfunny way. Google as friendly is at risk. The company’s plan to put the world’s books in their index, Borgesian and innocuous and grand both at first, has proved a defining moment, if you consider the notion that this is to feed AI agents of tomorrow. Its great algorithms notwithstanding, Google is getting to be a scary kind of smart.
An Edge article writ of late by George Dyson, author of Darwin among the Machines, set my neck hairs abuzz. Forebode arises as Dyson reports his personal discovery of a brooding presence of a Universal Mind readying the planet for arrival of AI Moloch. I found this piece by the way courtesy of deli.cio.us perusing, not Google searching.

John Battelle [I take it] introduces the story thus: “Whether we're talking about John Cage's idea of "the mind we all share" or H.G. Well's "World Brain", Google has its act together and are at the precipice of astonishing changes in human communication...and ultimately, in our sense of who or what we are. And like nearly all science-driven, technological developments, governments can only play catch-up as no one is going to get to vote for Google's changes, and the current laws, written in a pre-digital age, don't address the new situation.”Some sincerely believe we are entering a golden age of wonder and Google is leading the way ... Still, others believe there are reasons for legitimate fear of a (very near) future world in which the world's knowledge is privatized by one corporation. This could be a problem, a very big problem.”

The story comes in the wake of a long New York Times piece on Google, and John Battelle’s book on the same subject.

Background: The story is entitled Turing’s Cathedral. It is more about von Neumann, but in the context of Google. Author discusses Alan Turing’s tenets for discerning the machine that had evolved to the state of mindfulness. It begins with a discussion of John von Neumann and his invention of the stored program computing concept circa 1945. It’s noted in round about that Von Neumann was concerned with cellular phenomena and influenced by the then recent deciphering of DNA when he died in the mid-1950s. But that is not why Dyson came here to speak today. What he wants to talk about is Google, and the idea that it is 1945 all over again. Before the assault of stored programs. When a content addressable machine might have held sway. Something a bit more cellular in action.

Dyson is telling: “The von Neumann architecture is here to stay. But new forms of architecture, built upon the underlying layers of Turing-von Neumann machines, are starting to grow.” [I think Turing is depicted here as important in initial computer evolution as von Neumann – the reference is not to Turing’s influence on the human-like Thinking Machine.]The story harks on a rarely heard notion: the content addressable memory. Dyson brings it up in describing the architecture of Google search engines that now overlays the computing fabric.

[I digress: Content addressable memory {CAM} is helpful in search problems. It differs from RAM – it does not require the user system to supply memory address. Instead it searches its whole memory for requested data, and returns a list of associated storage addresses. Its fast, and so far, too costly to threaten conventional RAM in most areas.The major area where CAMs have found use is in network traffic routing. Neural and AI experiments that surmise our memories adhere some to our neurons have played with novel processor architectures that have sometimes included CAM or CAM-like devices.]

I guess what Dyson is indicating is that a global computer, the World Wide Web, is now taking on the architecture of content addressable memory, which people have often thought might more closely resemble ways of human thinking. If its ultimate job is to sate the machines, it's a smiling Moloch, one that has been very helpful to me as I have put together this dispatch.

Futurism Today
Edge: TURING'S CATHEDRAL by George DysonNever forget the secret of Google's team is velcro.
Cyber Ivar - Get answers to your questions about the UML
To revisit
Robots Expose Snipers
BU folks constructed neural-network circuitry that mimics the behavior of nerve cells. This is not therefor 'bet your life on it' technology.
World's Fastest Computers
Apparently No 1 doubled its performance, but had to double its size to do so...
Blatant copying' in coursework
The World Wide Crib - Examiners say they detected "blatant copying of material from the Internet" in some of this year's coursework for an important test. In other news, Google has resumed its project to put the entire library of humankind online.
Lab Notes: Research from the Berkeley College of Engineering
Massive wireless sensor networks are us.
Driving lessons pay off for robotic SUV
Knight Ridder author gets good guff on Stanley; inventor expects a future without need to surround work and malls with big parking lots. Instead, cars will dutifully park themselves on the edge of cities, waiting for a call to come retrieve their owners.

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