Quite a few of you sent me this one, and I think it's definitely worth posting, especially in the context of yesterday's blog about NASA's plan to drag asteroids to the Moon and mine them. There is a new architecture coming out for the enhancement of robotic performance, an architecture that will allow robots to be "independent," i.e., to learn in a fashion, and to perform tasks, in an almost human fashion:
Take note of a couple of paragraphs here:
"What sets this new device apart from any others is that it has nano-scale interconnected wires that perform billions of connections like a human brain, and is capable of remembering information, Gimzewski said. Each connection is a synthetic synapse. A synapse is what allows a neuron to pass an electric or chemical signal to another cell. Because its structure is so complex, most artificial intelligence projects so far have been unable to replicate it.
"A 'physical intelligence' device would not require a human controller the way a robot does, said Gimzewski. The applications of this technology for the military would be far reaching, he said. An aircraft, for example, would be able to learn and explore the terrain and work its way through the environment without human intervention, he said. These machines would be able to process information in ways that would be unimaginable with current computers.
"Artificial intelligence research over the past five decades has not been able to generate human-like reasoning or cognitive functions, said Gimzewski. DARPA’s program is the most ambitious he has seen to date. 'It’s an off-the-wall approach,' he added."
Off the wall thinking indeed. Reading between the lines a bit, it is suggested that there are two significant changes in this new type of "computer": (1) nanowires enabling multiple connections at each node, and (2) a hard physical architecture imitating or mimicking the architecture of the brain. Reading into the first point a little further, perhaps this team has learned how to construct "gates" that are more than the binary "and/or' gates, with only two options, to choose from. Such an architecture would indeed constitute a breakthrough, one normally attributed to the types of gates and processing only associated with quantum computing.
But all speculation aside, it is the second paragraph cited above that interests me, especially in the wake of yesterday's blog about NASA intending to mine asteroids. Such an architecture would greatly expand the capability of robotic space probes, and additionally, one can easily imagine that it would allow less space on probes to be taken up with computers, and more for equipment and a vast expansion of probe functionality.
So, rest assured, if the boys at DARPA can think of it, NASA already has too (that is, Dumb Ass idiots Role-Playing the Apocalypse -thanks again to Mr. J.B. for that wonderful acrostic). This would enable an entirely new generation of space probes.
See you on the flip side.