Thursday, February 16, 2012

Intelligent Everything - Mass Collaboration

Why does life run in real time? (And yes, I am serious.)

The greatest super computer on earth would take more than a week to run a physically-precise simulation of millions of sand granules falling through my fingers, but it happens naturally in an instant. Without going into the philosophical or religious details, it appears as though each particle knows how to react to everything around it. (You're thinking, "Did he just imply a grain of dirt is intelligent?" Yup. And they're pretty good at what they do too.)

There are a host of subjects I'd love to discuss about that doctrine, but I'd like to prove just one thing at the moment. The tools for solving the world's toughest problems may no longer be super computers. According to the NY Times todays fastest super computer is "able to make 8.2 quadrillion calculations per second, or in more technical terms, 8.2 petaflops. The performance of [this super computer] is equivalent to linking around one million desktop computers, Mr. Dongarra said." Only a million? Come on guys...we already hit the one billion PC mark back in 2008, not to mention recently surpassing something like 150M smartphone users...

What if large simulations or other tasks could be decentralized and farmed out to each of these users? Graphics aficionados already know the importance of parallelized processing, but let's take it a step farther. Conceptually, give each particle its own set of rules, processor, and access to communicate with the nearest 10 particles around it. Sure, the method has a unique set of problems, but nothing innovative comes easily. Gamification, crowd sourcing, and social networks are already conceptual proof of the idea. I want to see it done.


  1. I've never thought of life running in real time. It's an interesting idea every particle in the universe can compute its own movements based on the some set of standard laws. Kind of crazy.

  2. The vision of fully distributed computing is in its infancy, but infancy it definitely is- we have moved beyond conception and into actual life of the idea. Consider projects like SETI@Home or Folding@Home. All of the existing solutions are essentially one-off, specialized projects, but they lay the groundwork. What we need now is just a standardized, general-purpose interface. Cloud computing as a service where anyone's spare processor cycles can be part of the cloud.