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Calculating A Theoretical Boundary To Computation

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the this-far-and-not-beyond dept.

Science 583

TMB writes "Lawrence Krauss and Glenn Starkman, astrophysicists at Case Western Reserve University (and in LK's case, author of a number of books including Physics of Star Trek), just submitted this nice little paper to Phys. Rev. Letters. It claims that in an accelerating universe, the existence of a future event horizon puts a fundamental physical limit on the total amount of calculation that can be done, even in an infinite time. This limit is much smaller than the traditional Hawking-Beckenstein entropy. Among other things, this implies that and Moore's Law must have a finite lifetime, here calculated to be 600 years, and that consciousness must be finite."

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Theoretical Boundary to my penis? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995216)

Nope.

Roger Penrose (3, Informative)

andy666 (666062) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995221)

This doesn't mention Penrose's work, which is very much like this.

Re:Roger Penrose - linky link? (2)

Zweistein_42 (753978) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995257)

(feel free to enlighten us then, eh? :)

Re:Roger Penrose - linky link? (5, Insightful)

Flyboy Connor (741764) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995306)

Penrose is a mathematician who attempts to be philospohical and fails miserably, because he can't distinguish his intuition from fact. You don't need a link. Just remember that he wrote "The Emperor's New Mind", and coil away in horror.

Re:Roger Penrose - linky link? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995341)

Don't knock it just because it is mathematical and you can't understand basic physics and theoretical computer science. Not everything in the scientific world is a Perl script, you clod.

Idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995446)

His criticism was based on the fact that his intuition is faulty, not that his physics and computer science is. Can you read, or are you just a moron?

Re:Roger Penrose (0, Flamebait)

TwistedGreen (80055) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995274)

Penrose is also an unscientific nutbar. He's not mentioned for a good reason.

Re:Roger Penrose (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995288)

I disagree. His stuff makes total sense to me, unlike say, the work of Stephen Wolfram, who is a true crank.

Re:Roger Penrose (1)

aminorex (141494) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995431)

I'd lay dollars to donuts that he's done one hell of
a lot more science than you will ever do. It's got
to hurt to be called a nutbar by someone named
"TwistedGreen".

Re:Roger Penrose (4, Informative)

julesh (229690) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995526)

I haven't seen anything by Penrose which is like this. In fact, this article states an assumption ("consciousness is fundamentally computational in nature") that directly contradicts Penrose's most well known result, a rather dubious pseudo-mathematical "proof" that consciousness _cannot_ be computational as a consequence of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem.

So, no, it isn't really like Penrose's work.

Exception (5, Insightful)

Zweistein_42 (753978) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995230)

"consciousness must be finite"

Except, of course, for those using certain popular mind-expanding substances ;)

Seriously though - it seems we are finding a new limit every day. Wasn't it last week that they theorized limitations on data storage, as well as data transmission speed?

Re:Exception (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995262)

It was this week it was mentioned about the data storage limit. Hmmm.... I guess memory is even shorter in the finite time that has occured so far.

Re:Exception (2, Insightful)

kemapa (733992) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995290)

Why not spend less time figuring out the limitations and more time working to break those limitations? Or maybe limitations need to be set in order to break them!

Re:Exception (2)

steveb964 (727054) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995457)

Why not spend less time figuring out the limitations and more time working to break those limitations?

I feel the same way, however, in contrast, perhaps we need to know the limitations so instead of learning how to break them, we can find ways around them. If we rested on limitations set already, we'd be having great fun working inside the 640K box.

Re:Exception (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995303)

Like dude, I was totally smoking this bogus weed and it like totally occured to me that there is like only so much stuff my finger can totally interact with. I mean warp theory is like so just no way, that I've got to depend on my photons you know. Cause when you think about it, all we ever feel is electron, and all anyone sees is the light we you know ... hey you gonna eat that brownie ... uh scatter. So like there's only so much stuff that we can interact with in the visible universe. So it's like there is an edge, and only so much stuff. Which means that the whole universe can only hold so many states. So there's like a finite ability for it know and like cosmically meditate about what's going down you know??

Dude...

I know, I totally stayed at a holiday inn express last night.

Re:Exception (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995370)

Dude... Woah man, totaly rightious, fully sick!

yes! I am from the 80s

Re:Exception (2, Interesting)

RLW (662014) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995482)

We live in a finite universe. So, all things which require a physical framework are finite. It's just that there's a lot of stuff and therefore a *lot* of possible states. From the point of view of a very limited life span we can never even come close to witnessing an even small fraction of the number of states for the universe.

In fact there are limitations to everything. Even to our ability to determinie limitations.

fifth post!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995233)

look at me i'm a fucking gay G5 user!!!!!!

so happy la la la

wheeeeeeeeeeee :))))))))

FaIlUrE (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995240)

yOu gOt FoUrTh PoSt!1!

Re:FaIlUrE (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995269)

His G5 is faster than he realizes.

Re:FaIlUrE (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995273)

I can frost pist on my 386. the slowness of the G5 has nothing to do with it.

enough! (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995234)

Moore's law was never intended to be a scientific theory. It was just a useful observation. It has never had anything other than economic incentive to keep it going. Using it to discuss the calculational ability of the universe is idiotic.

Re:enough! (3, Informative)

spangineer (764167) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995283)

Exactly - Moore's law is certainly not a real scientific law. It often approximates what actually happens, but because it's based on human activity, it's not very precise. Humans are unpredictable, and thus, cannot possibly be the basis for a scientific law (as far as I know)

Law [m-w.com] 6 a : a statement of an order or relation of phenomena that so far as is known is invariable under the given conditions b : a general relation proved or assumed to hold between mathematical or logical expressions.

Re:enough! (3, Interesting)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995348)

Moore's law was never intended to be a scientific theory. It was just a useful observation. It has never had anything other than economic incentive to keep it going. Using it to discuss the calculational ability of the universe is idiotic.

Exactly. Moore's law only works because it gave Intel (and these days, AMD, too) a goal for predictable release cycles. It has absolutely nothing to do with physics.

The idea of "consciousness" really doesn't either. No credible physicist would get involved in this kind of pure philosopical theorizing without some evidence.

Have they provided some theory that also tells us the mass of a given consciousness?

Find another category. This does not belong in "science".

Re:enough! (1)

bludstone (103539) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995513)

Current theories say that conciousness exists in the inredibly complex electrical fields generated by the human brain.

As such, it has no weight.

Unless you can weigh electricity.

Unfortunatly, I dont remember where I read this.

Re:enough! (4, Informative)

jcoleman (139158) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995391)

Ummm...read that again. Moore's Law is not the basis of this paper. Physicists and mathematicians using economic theories (yes, Moore's Law is economic in nature) to predict physical laws are neither published nor credentialed. The finiteness of Moore's Law is an implication of the findings of this paper.

Re:enough! (5, Informative)

julesh (229690) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995447)

Have you read the article? All it states is that no civilisation could possibly extend Moore's Law beyond 600 years. That's the only reference to Moore's Law in the entire article, and its a reasonable one. It puts into terms we can (just about) understand the implications of the discovery. Who knows what 1.5 * 10^220 bits of information processed is? But 600 years of development at the current rate is slightly more imaginable (although, I'll admit, only marginally so).

Re:enough! (1)

condensate (739026) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995491)

Theoretical Physisists always must refer to some real-life problem to show the usability of the theory put forward. After all, The paper puts a limit to Moore's law. Whether or not it is true, scientific or economic or whatnot does not really matter. The point is to give a certain limit to things. The argument proceeds along the line of "If there was a law that says this and that and blah blah about processor speeds etc. etc., then, this law cannot hold indefinitely". Nothing more, nothing less.

The Slashdot effect horizon? (4, Funny)

ab762 (138582) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995238)

We should now be able to compute the asymptotic limit of web-server bandwidth for slashdot-proofness per year for 600 years. I bet it's a constant price in street dollars.

Re:The Slashdot effect horizon? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995350)

shouldn't that be event horizon.

The Slashdot effect, putting you web-server into a blackhole.

Sweet (4, Interesting)

DrLudicrous (607375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995246)

I was a physics undergrad at Case, and actually had Starkman as a professor for a mathematical physics course. I have chatted with Krauss a few times since graduation on science topics involving public education. These are good guys, glad to see them headlining slashdot this morning.

Re:Sweet (1)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995358)

Yeah, I'm guessing there are more than a few Case alums (or current students) still here. I never had Krauss or Starkman (I was in aerospace, c/o 2000), but two of my best friends were physics majors (what are the odds I know you?). Lots of interesting stories from Rockefeller...I'm not at all surprised that there is something about a 'limit to consciousness' in a Krauss paper.

It is neat to see the alma mater out in the "real world" though.

Re:Sweet (5, Insightful)

Total_Wimp (564548) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995471)

This is great work.

If there's a limit to consiousness on the high end of an expanding universe then we should also be able to make educated guesses at the low end and then put a front time on the resulting "wave" of intelligence.

If we have a beggining of the "wave" then we should be able to make better educated guesses about the distribution of intelligence in the universe and possible level of advancement of any intelligent life we might find. We might discover, for example, that we're reletively advanced (came early in the wave) and that we're less likely to find more advanced life. On the other hand, we may find that we're late in the wave and thus likely surrounded by life much more advanced than us.

This could be a much better way of looking at extraterrestrial life than just guessing based on the number of stars.

TW

On a similar note... (-1, Redundant)

D-Cypell (446534) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995248)

Perhaps /. should release a study on the theorectical limit to bandwidth.

Slashdot's constant anyone?

Re:On a similar note... (1)

REBloomfield (550182) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995292)

b(l)=s/ba bandwidth limit = slashdot/bandwidth available

Physics of star trek (2, Informative)

REBloomfield (550182) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995258)

Physics of star trek [amazon.com]

It's not a referer link, don't worry...

Re:Physics of star trek (1)

tanveer1979 (530624) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995310)

Well you forgot to mention that this book is by the same author as in the paper :).

Re:Physics of star trek (2, Funny)

REBloomfield (550182) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995327)

I assumed I wouldn't need to :) I know most people don't read the article, but I would have hoped that they would read the preamble at the top. But this is /. :)

Re:Physics of star trek (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995339)

RTFB

Re:Physics of star trek (1)

katarac (565789) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995393)

Why would I worry about a reefer link? I'm all about the ree.... oh wait.

Infinite Wisdom? (4, Funny)

jelle (14827) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995259)

"and that consciousness must be finite."

So they are saying that, using fundamental physics and mathematics, they have proof that if somebody has infinite wisdon, the universe can not be expanding?

Re:Infinite Wisdom? (1)

the_2nd_coming (444906) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995291)

proof that god must be finite if he/she is part of the universe.

Re:Infinite Wisdom? (5, Insightful)

TrueJim (107565) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995329)

Or looked at another way, proof that any "manifestation" of a supreme being in this universe must have finite wisdom, even if somehow (however nonsensical) a supreme being "outside" this universe might still have infinite wisdom. So in order to be known to mankind, you'd need to transmit a "finite" approximation of yourself -- hmmm...

Re:Infinite Wisdom? (2, Informative)

WARM3CH (662028) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995476)

Very interesting. In some Islamic phylosophies, God is an infinite being who is not inside or part of the universe (he has no physical attributes) and hence not limited by any means, who has not been born, is unique and does not produce any child or such. His prophets, on the other hand, all are normal human beings with all of the limitations.

Re:Infinite Wisdom? (1)

moxruby (152805) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995347)

uhhh. A -> ~B is not logically equivalent to B -> ~A

Re:Infinite Wisdom? (1)

Fuzion (261632) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995413)

Yes it is,
A->C is exactly the same as ~C->~A, so switch C with B and you have A->~B is the same as ~~B->~A

A limit on computation? (1)

the_thunderbird (682833) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995260)

I have always though moores law to be crap, I mean its just some marketing scan to force us to upgrade slowly... With quantum computers around the corner (10 - 100 years) we should be able to reach the limit, but the point is by that time, this research might have been proven wrong... Minge for example predicts that computing something will become instant, so in other words there is a limit on computing power! But at that point we won't need to go faster as it is instant already (in our sense of time), and hopefully too by then we won't be morons anymore either...

Re:A limit on computation? (1)

Zweistein_42 (753978) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995304)

I'm not sure if computing can ever become instant (especially not in strict sense of the word). As our capabilities increase, so do the requirements. And I'm not even talking about MS Word taking longer and longer with computers faster and faster... :-P

There is almost ridiculous (and exploding) amount of raw data out there, and we are always eager to collate, process and present it in better ways. With software being written in less optimized ways (due to need for speedy development), and increased expectations, a "common task" today doesn't take significantly less time then it did 10 years ago -- it's just that a "common task" today is much more complex (and, arguably, useful).

Re:A limit on computation? (1)

the_thunderbird (682833) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995443)

I wasn't talking about instant as in no time at all, I meant that instant being in our interpretation of how long something takes to process. The way software is written will change soon. If you look at Star Trek for example, take a couple of their scenarios, they do not write software, they get the computer to do it for them. This is essentially how interfaces and software will be engineered, these take a long time and have to be full proof. At the moment the fastest computers we have are our brains, if you construct a sentance its instant, for example, I would say, "computing power has a limit", now it takes me no time at all to "compute" to build that sentance up from the impulses in my brain. This is essentially how I see computing becoming, it will get to a point (I am not talking about AI) where it is intelligent enough to process data in the same way we do. What I am trying to say, is that computing will get to a point where it has the same computing power of our brains (In terms of raw calculation, not intellect). This in a sense with the size and capability of our brains means that make a computer perform a complex calculation becomes instant in the sense that we can understand it to be instant, and something we cannot predict is where we will be in 500 years, we are evolving (growing smarter of course) a lot faster than ever before. If you look at the stuff our parents learnt and the look at the stuff we are learning, you will see how much more we are absorbing, even though it looks like a tiny amount. I remember one episode of "Enterprise" where the dude from the future told Cpt. Archer that he learnt how to communicate to people in the past in High School. Think about it, we can only really go two ways, we will never be stuck in one place and we seem to be moving forward and you can already see the results, i.e. the merging of different cultures.

Re:A limit on computation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995367)

Moore's law is nothing more than a simple conclusion about the market effects of our ability to make ever finer transistors in ever larger quantities and complicated arrangements. It will crap out around 2017 to 2020 depending on who you ask. By then we will likely have at least quantum computing units available which are a fundementally different animal altogether. Moore's law never applied to such beasts.

Re:A limit on computation? (1)

SmackCrackandPot (641205) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995382)

I have always though moores law to be crap, I mean its just some marketing scan to force us to upgrade slowly...

I think it remains in use, because it keeps everyone (semiconductor fab plants, manufacturers, board designers) going at the same speed. If anyone falls behind current technology they make al oss. If they invest a considerable amount of money to develop a component that is over-engineered and can't work with anything else, they make a loss.

Look at the evolution of desktop/workstations. In order to support a windowed environment, you need a high-performance CPU (window overlap tests), high-speed bus, an accelerated high-resolution graphics card (rendering), and a decent monitor (small dot pitch, high refresh rate). None of these would be of much use until all of the others were in existance.

consciousness is finite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995277)

I'm not sure in exactly what sense the paper is describing consciousness as "finite", but I would say that anything that has a boundary or a limit is finite. The fact that consciousness can be defined means that it must have a boundary around it, that boundary being that which seperates it from "not-consciousness". So consciousness is definitely finite as is anything that is less than Everything.

Fucking geek shitheads (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995278)

Fuck karma, anyone who's dumb enough to be into this garbage deserves to get fucked in the ass with a pitchfork. Fucking nerds!

Re:Fucking geek shitheads (-1, Flamebait)

Zweistein_42 (753978) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995324)

sounds painful... arguably, anybody whose mind is into *that* kind of thing, is even more messed up then the aforementioned geeks ;)

And in other news... (4, Interesting)

Glock27 (446276) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995282)

Skewe's number of angels can dance on the head of a pin...

This article contains a very large number of assumptions, which may well prove not to be the case (constant cosmological constant, no FTL communication/travel, no access to other universes etc. etc.). Still, an interesting intellectual exercise I suppose... ;-)

Re:And in other news... (2, Insightful)

mjh (57755) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995404)

This article contains a very large number of assumptions, which may well prove not to be the case (constant cosmological constant, no FTL communication/travel, no access to other universes etc. etc.). Still, an interesting intellectual exercise I suppose... ;-)
That's an interesting perspective. I haven't RTFA, but aren't those assumptions fairly reasonable? Considering that we have Einstein with a proof that faster than light is impossible, it doesn't seem unreasonable to assume it.

Maybe the article is based on assumptions. But if they're all pretty reasonable assumptions, then it would seem to be a pretty good conclusion. Or am I missing something?

Pr0n (1, Funny)

dominick (550229) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995289)

Does this mean I'll be able to compute how much pr0n will be on my server 600 years from now?

Re:Pr0n (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995319)

Fuck what a stupid thing to say. Of all the stupid things you could have said, you chose that one. What a dick.

Re:Pr0n (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995399)

That's easy. None! You will be dead from a related matibation accident and the fact that your server 600 years from now will be rotting landfill in China.

I'm a physicist, here is my take. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995305)

There can only be a finite number of first posts.

arXiv reaches it's computational limit! (5, Informative)

mattjb0010 (724744) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995315)

Please use the mirrors. In Australia, the closest one is here [arxiv.org] .

Re:arXiv reaches it's computational limit! (1)

mattjb0010 (724744) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995345)

Woops, looks like the apostrophe police will hang me now :)

Re:arXiv reaches it's computational limit! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995521)

Why? You didn't commit an apostrophe crime.

Re:arXiv reaches it's computational limit! (1)

extremecenter (620934) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995502)

Until recently the Los Alamos arXiv site was xxx.lanl.gov. I always assumed some porn-surfing alarms were going off every time I accessed quant-ph at LANL. Also wondered whether the guy that named a government server 'xxx' was a prankster or just completely clueless!

US Govt says there is no limit to credit (1)

cheekyboy (598084) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995320)

Its been confirmed by the fed.gov that there is no limit to inflation and the amount of credit with fractional reserve banking that can be made.

in 600 years our debt will be $2569663053366973200

"Consciousness is finite?" (3, Interesting)

heironymouscoward (683461) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995338)

Can you even define consciousness?

Are we talking about the physical computational capacity of a headful of neurons, which is finite by definition unless you believe that the brain can somehow reach into unknown dimensions somewhat like early CPUs used bank shifting to increase their RAM range?

Or are we talking about the sensation we have of being alive, a sensation that is arguably simply generated by our brains as a mechanism to ensure our survival. Yes, the vaunted consciousness that reacts a full 1/4 second after the fact when we do most common actions such as crossing the road, kicking a ball, picking up a cup, or typing comments to Slashdot?

The definition of "consciousness" is seriously under debate and it's meaningless to discuss whether it's finite or infinite.

Most likely, consciousness is a sense, like sight or sound. Would you frame the discussion of your sense of smell in terms of computational power? No, me neither.

Mu.

Re:"Consciousness is finite?" (1)

janimal (172428) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995419)

I would.

It's interesting to know how much detail one can see. It helps in display design.

Light sensitivity and processing power of images helps define good refresh rates for our displays.

It's good to know the frequency response range of the ear. It helps with sound systems and alarms.

Sensory resolution is very important in engineering.

So why would we want to know the computational power necessary/used in our consciousness? Hm.. we may want to simulate that consciousness, for example. ;)

J

Re:"Consciousness is finite?" (1)

spellraiser (764337) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995433)

Well, I 'read' the article (skimmed over it, more like), and it has precisely this to say about finite conciousness:

In this case, if one treats consciousness, conservatively, as merely a form of computation, then one can derive a finite total lifetime for any civilization in an accelerating universe.

This conclusion results from the fact that in such a universe one ultimately has access to only a finite volume, even after an infinite time. In the case of actual conscious living systems, it is difficult to quantify the nature of this limit, because we do not currently understand the precise relationship between computational complexity and consciousness.

...

If consciousness involves information processing, then when one is ultimately able to determine the minimum complexity of a conscious being in terms of the information-processing rate in bits/sec, then an upper limit on the future of consciousness within an accelerating universe can be derived.

Conclusion: They are talking about the total possible lifetime of consciousness as suck within the universe, not the finity of any single consciousness.

Re:"Consciousness is finite?" (1)

spellraiser (764337) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995454)

Err - Freudian slip there ... as suck -> as such ... :P

And regarding smell (1)

janimal (172428) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995439)

My brother recently started work on researching how humans experience smell. He needs to know how many different compounds the nose can sense, and how the brain is able to process combinations of these compounds to produce the sense of smelling something.

Interesting study. Very real.

J

Re:"Consciousness is finite?" (1)

takochan (470955) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995451)

Consciousness is most likely related to some laws of physics that we haven't discovered/fully understood yet,. possibly related to quantum mechanics.

Most likely, As we get better at observing interactions at the very small level between atoms and particles, we are going to find some very unexpected behaviors, some of which will explain the interface between consciousness, and the physical world we know around us. Then things will get very interesting indeed as it will then be possible to manfacture beings/things that exhibit those properties..etc.

Re:"Consciousness is finite?" (4, Interesting)

AllUsernamesAreGone (688381) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995518)

Most likely, consciousness is a sense, like sight or sound.

Or, even more likely, an emergent byproduct of highly complex strange loops and pattern matching that, unlike any sense, does not have an explicit biological presence.

New scientific approach--hype, then back off (0)

scottennis (225462) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995365)

From the paper:

"In this case, if one treats consciousness, conservatively, as merely a form of computation, then one can derive a finite total lifetime for any civilization in an accelerating universe. This conclusion results from the fact that in such a universe one ultimately has access to only a finite volume, even after an infinite time. In the case of actual conscious living systems, it is difficult to quantify the nature of this limit, because we do not currently understand the precise relationship between computational complexity and consciousness."

They make a bold statement in the first sentence about consciousness, then two sentences later start back-pedalling faster than Wile E. Coyote at the edge of a cliff. This is not science, it's a cry for attention.

"Art is a religion with no god. Science is a disease with no cure." --Bart Hemminger, The Outside Curtain

Consciousness must be finite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995366)

Give me a break ... what the heck does this sentence mean? Anyone?

As usual, it is a prime example of our lame and confused ideas about what's going on in our head. Very few people have any idea what consciousness is, or even if it is, let alone some idea about whether it could be finite or infinite.

This kind of slashdot tagline just perpetuates mumbled conceptions of self that make little to no sense.

L

consciousness? (1)

_critic (145603) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995371)

and wtf do they mean by "consciousness"? is there some technical definition of this term? or are they just throwing around some nonsense?

assumptions (2, Interesting)

countzer0interrupt (628930) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995375)

"consciousness must be finite"
... this only works if consciousness is based on computation, surely? It's getting into the area of metaphysics, but so far there's nothing to suggest that consciousness is based within the brain, let alone is computational.

Re:assumptions (1)

countzer0interrupt (628930) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995397)

Ahh, I just RTFA. Apologies for any time wasted, people.

Re:assumptions (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995481)

there's nothing to suggest that consciousness is based within the brain

Just out of interest, where else do you suggest?

Re:assumptions (3, Interesting)

phfpht (654492) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995509)

but so far there's nothing to suggest that consciousness is based within the brain, let alone is computational. Sure there's evidence to suggest that consciousness is based within the brain. If the brain is damaged, consciousness can be removed or reduced (level of). That alone is a strong ling that consciousness is brain based. Enough brain damage and one can die or be reduced to a vegitable, metaphorically speaking. That seems to be a distinct reduction in consciousness. Smaller brains seem to have varying but usually lesser degrees of consciousness. Dogs have some level of conscousness, but it doesn't seem to be to same degree as, say, humans or even chimps. Defining consciousness itself is difficult, though. Is consciousness merely intelligence? Intellectual capacity? Awareness of surroundings? Memory? A combination of these? Something else? Something else is a slippery slope, though, as one can define consciousness as something which is intentionally unmeasurable or unknowable.

Re:assumptions (1)

janimal (172428) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995517)

I think the guy talks about the general concept of computation as processing information in any way shape or form. The breaking of glass is a computation. If anything exists and changes in time, I think one can say that it represents information that is "computed" as it morphs.

Consciousness and "metaphysical" involve information being reorganized no matter what your belief. Hence they involve computation.

I don't think you can believe that a universe is finite or that it contains a certain amount of information (which is useful for a lot of real physics, I believe) unless you accept that anything we preceive to be "metaphysical" must by totally contained in the universe.

J

A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge (3, Informative)

puzzled (12525) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995398)



Strongly suggest you read Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon The Deep - he develops a very interesting view of expansion of the universe and consciousness.

If you've not heard of Vinge before that isn't a big surprise, but he did write True Names as well - the very foundation of the cyberpunk/hacker genre. This is also a good read if you can actually locate it.

Moore's Law? It's not a theory, just a curve! (4, Insightful)

heironymouscoward (683461) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995410)

Moore's Law is not a physical theory, it is the observation of a common phenomenon, namely the curve that technology goes through as it becomes cheaper and eventually free.

All technologies seem to obey this general law. Software, chips, disk space, they all tend to zero.

Even a passenger jet costs a fraction of what it did 20 years ago.

Moore's Law turns this around to say that for the same price we can expect more and more capacity. Long before 600 years are passed, this capacity will effectively reach "infinite", being the point where no-one can use more capacity or power, no matter what the application. At which point Moore's Law will gently slow down.

Re:Moore's Law? It's not a theory, just a curve! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995510)

Meanwhile the auto industry maintains a negative Moores curve getting more expensive with time and even beating inflation to the punch.

Submitted, not accepted (2, Informative)

caek (571864) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995416)

This article hasn't (yet) been accepted for publication. Caveat lector!

Limits to pr0n? (2, Funny)

phil reed (626) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995420)

The obvious conclusion of this paper is that there is a finite limit to the amount of pr0n in the universe. That's good to know -- I can now relax, knowing that I won't have to keep buying bigger hard drives forever.

Re:Limits to pr0n? (-1)

chegosaurus (98703) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995465)

> there is a finite limit to the amount of pr0n in the universe.

Nooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!

Maybe I'm just not understanding, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995421)

But I was under the impression that, since the univserse is expanding faster than light and we cannot transfer data faster than light, then it would be impossible to obtain all the knowledge of the universe at once. Has this essay outlined anything other than what my single sentence did?

Does this paper proove anything other than the fact that the universe cannot contain an exact replica of itself within itself? Seems like common sense to me.

Eye glaze (1, Funny)

Woogiemonger (628172) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995426)

Yep, even the title of this paper is designed to make one stare blankly and nod. With such eloquent scientific lingo wrapped around such an outlandish subject matter, the end effect is comparable to drinking a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster.

2 special case light cones to consider (1, Interesting)

zptdooda (28851) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995430)

Is quantum tunnelling across the event horizon of a light cone possible, in the same way that this evaporates black holes? Then excess energy can seep into the limited space.

And what if a light cone included a quasar? Are the physics of this understood well enough for it to be included in the general case?

Population of the universe (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995432)

I don't know why, but it reminds me of:

The Universe: some information to help you live in it.
Population: None.
It is known that there is an infinite number of worlds, but not every one is inhabited. Therefore there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so if every planet in the Universe has a population of zero then the entire population of the Universe must be zero, and any people you may actually meet from time to time are merely products of a deranged imagination.

Infinity (2, Funny)

MrDoh! (71235) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995435)

So, if the universe has a limit, and the Mind isn't infinite, and we're all constrained by the entropy of the ever so slowly expanding universe, I have just one question.

Would anyone like some toast?

I doubt (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8995529)

many will see a Red Dwarf anecdote in this :-)

N3wsByt3

hmmm... (1, Funny)

moviepig.com (745183) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995442)

So, consciousness is finite, huh?

Can't say as how I'm aware of that.

Allow me to point out a huge assumption (4, Interesting)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995467)

"...consciousness must be finite."

This assumes that consciousness is based solely on computation. Not proven yet.

And for that matter, even if consciousness is nothing more than computation, how can we put a limit on an activity in space-time when we don't even know how space-time functions, or even how many dimensions it has?

Weaselmancer

The Question (1)

rlp (11898) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995483)

Time to get cracking on the calculation of how to reverse entropy (per Asimov).

well, duh (3, Insightful)

Too Much Noise (755847) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995494)

(note of caution - let's see whether this gets accepted, looks more like a Science article than a Phys. Rev. Lett. one to me)

so ... duh. This is more or less a geometrical analysis (finite causal volume) + basic information theory. No questions asked about physics of inflation and how would that affect the result. So you end up with a trivial result, too - a finite volume can only hold a finite amount of information. If a lot of other assumptions hold - such as whether the available energy in this volume is really finite (how does one sustain an infinitely accelerating model this way?)

everyday another reason... (1)

rogabean (741411) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995497)

to feel geekier then the day before...

I just get into work this morning sporting my copy of "The Physics of Star Trek" and I see this article...

sad thing is I am completely serious... ::hangs head in shame::

Useful analogy (3, Funny)

gkuz (706134) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995500)

the later the observer attempts to collect energy within the accessible volume, the less of it there is.

It's like at the bar -- the later in the night you attempt to pick up chicks, the fewer of them are still available.

Conclusion: (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995515)


So get in as many gaming hours as you can right away, before someone else uses up the universe's quota of computation.

Therefore God doesn't exist (2, Interesting)

Kris Warkentin (15136) | more than 10 years ago | (#8995519)

If this paper is true and there is a limit on consciousness, wouldn't it make the existence of an omnipotent being an impossibility?
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