Sunday, November 14, 2004

Black box

An article in the London Sunday Times today has a top scientist, Sir Martin Rees of Cambridge University, seriously questioning whether the universe is in fact just a simulation inside a giant supercomputer. Other scientists debunk the notion on the grounds that such a computer would have to be unimaginably large. But who would have ever thought that you could get the computing power we now have in such a small space? The Pocket PC that I hold in my hand is now much more powerful than the roomful of computers that once sent a man to the moon. And this is just the beginning of the trend towards miniaturization; a quantum computer can easily hold data in one table that encompasses all of the atoms in the known universe.

But perhaps it would take nothing more than the human brain to generate this simulation, for we do not even comprehend how complex that machine is. It consists of more than brain cells: it is wirelessly networked to vast reservoirs of computing power that we know nothing of. And it is through the brain that we absorb the size and shape of this world we inhabit. It's kind of like having a black box voting machine. It provides the result without any accountability.

So if you bemoan the state of affairs in the nation at present, just look at the universe. You yourself are the biggest black box going.

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