Dirt Biking and Moore's Law:

Being a dirt bike rider, of some skill, I've chuckled while watching video clips of the DARPA Grand Challenge participants bouncing around, especially the bike and quad. While it amazes me that they can get a computer to "ride" a motorcycle, the results really are pathetic from a riding point of view. There is no finesse, no anticipation, and only rudimentary control. Very beginner stuff. But, I'm sure that will change soon.

Moore's Law states that transistors on chips double in density every 18 months. Most people shortcut to assuming computer processing power doubles in that time. I've been thinking about that a lot lately. Extrapolating this backwards, in the 50 odd years that computers have been around, Moore's Law says they've gotten roughly 4 billion times more powerful. It kind of makes sense, going from hertz to gigahertz and with substantially wider buses and the like. But, if we extrapolate forward, then 50 years from now - in 2056, computers will be 4 billion times more powerful than they are now. People keep saying we're going to miss a beat in Moore's Law, it's not a real law after all. But, so far we've kept it up and there's enough research in the pipe to keep it going for a while.

So, assuming, as some people have, that our minds are 100 times more powerful than a decent computer, that gives us about, say, 13 years head start. Maybe the assumption is wrong and we're 200 times smarter... so we fall behind computers in 14.5 years. Maybe we're 1,000 times smarter: 17 years. A million times smarter: 29 years. The basic issue is that we, being biological, are not subject to a Moore's Law exponential curve. At best, assuming intelligence evolved, and that we are still evolving, and that this evolution is towards increased intelligence - all debatable assumptions - then our processing power increase is pretty linear, punctuated equilibrium aside. Computer processing power, and thus intelligence, is increasing exponentially. Sooner or later, computers will be smarter than we are. Being exponential, later isn't very much later. 100 years from now, computers might be 30 million trillion ( 30,000,000,000,000,000,000) times more powerful: we won't.

Chess players have had to suffer the indignity of being beaten by a computer. How long before I have to admit that a computer can out-ride me in the desert? The age of riders, drivers, and pilots is rapidly coming to a close. The best will be bested and the rest of us will just be along for the ride. My father saw the obsolescence of the steam locomotive and the space shuttle; he might even be around for the first space elevators. I'll probably live to see the human race fall to the number 2 slot on the intelligence scale. 18 months later, we'll only be half as intelligent, and so on. Are humans 30 million trillion times smarter than an ant?

Are we stupid enough to make computers smarter than we are? Maybe the Luddite's got it right.

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