computational substrate

Gift idea: “Red Queen” – FREE for Five Days

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1

Amazon only allows me to give away a book for five days a quarter. From today to Dec. 20th Red Queen is free on Kindle (it’s always free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited!) Would be a great gift idea for those of you who are thoughtful but temporarily short of cash, but I checked and the usual “buy as gift” button — which lets you buy a code the recipient can use to get the book — is removed when the book is free. Scrooge would be proud.

The rest of the series is, as usual, priced at $2.99, which is not much for so many quality words. Those you can give as gifts, or spring for the sumptuous trade paperbacks — not cheap at all, but look better under the tree.

As a new school year ramps up on campus, Justin Smith began another day at the Artificial Life lab running ALife simulations on human evolution. The lab was a sanctuary from the political divisiveness on campus and, for that matter, across the nation. A nuclear terrorist attack in New York City some years ago resulted in a government crackdown on dissent as well as a depressed economy where educational grants were drying up except for those labs who ‘cooperate’ with the government. However, Justin’s lab was soon to transform itself from a sanctuary to the center of resistance to the government… [with the] discovery of a computer program so powerful that it could be weaponized, tilting the balance of power even further into the hands of an already repressive government. The race to keep this mega weapon out of government hands leads Justin, Steve and a small cadre of students to secure the weapon and fight for their freedom from a tyrannical Dept. of Homeland Security.

Free for five days on Amazon Kindle. Feel free to pass it along!

“Red Queen” – Latest Review

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars 1

Most recent review on Amazon:

In an artificial intelligence lab in a university in California, Justin Smith is running an experiment in something like synthetic evolution. The initially rudimentary intelligences start with little more than the ability to detect food a small distance away, and the ability to move to get it. In a bit more than 12 hours, a thousand generations of the AI species are born, learn, reproduce and die. Throughout the book, we get tantalizing glimpses of what is going on in this virtual world.

That’s NOT the main story, though. It’s a good enough hook that it kept me reading, and that’s as good as you can get for a minor plot line, so extra bonus points for the tiny tiny people plot.

“In the world outside the mainframe, terrorism has taken a huge turn for the worse, with the availability of ‘lost’ Soviet era nuclear weapons for anyone with money to spend. New York is destroyed in the first scene….

And on the campuses of colleges and universities, everything that is not forbidden is compulsory, or close to it. Under the guise of empowering the disenfranchised, anything that might be regarded as a threat is hunted out and killed. This means that any research which may demonstrate that everybody is not exactly the same is actively persecuted. In the name of diversity, total conformity is required.

Enter…..wait for it……THE NERDS!!!! That’s the thing about people with brains: they tend to use them. And, in the case of a young post-doctoral with little to no awareness of anything outside his lab work, wonderful things can happen. Specifically, he discovers a window into another world. And that makes all the difference.

Available at Amazon.

“Red Queen”: Science Notes


[Appendix from Red Queen: The Substrate Wars.]

If you’re a theoretical physicist, you’ll note I am taking liberties with the science. But only a little—and the plot is very much real science. Steve Duong discovers something unexpected, creates a new hypothesis which explains his anomalous results, then confirms his hypothesis by further experimentation. I don’t personally believe we live in a universe where giant quasiparticles can talk to every other particle in the universe and ask them to attach to new partners, but it could be so. We are always just one experiment away from a revolution in understanding. And it will likely be something equally unexpected that allows us to travel to the stars.

I have the Grey Tribe communicating by using encrypted messages embedded in public web site photo streams. For a similar app available now, see Crypstagram. There are several messaging apps that are encrypted currently, for example Whatsapp. But in this future State of Emergency, standard encryption of messages and email has been outlawed, and phone companies and apps are not allowed to secure user data against surveillance. There are high officials in the US government at this writing asking that all phones be searchable for law enforcement purposes, and we can expect more efforts to outlaw encryption. “When encryption is outlawed, only outlaws will have encryption!”

On the attempts to find a cellular automaton model that explains quantum physics, this is the abstract of one interesting paper: “Quantum Field as a Quantum Cellular Automaton I: The Dirac free evolution in one dimension”:

It is shown how a quantum cellular automaton can describe very precisely the Dirac evolution, without requiring Lorentz covariance. The automaton is derived with the only assumptions of minimal dimension and parity and time-reversal invariance. The automaton extends the Dirac field theory to the Planck and ultrarelativistic scales. The Dirac equation is recovered in the usual particle physics scale of inertial mass and momenta. In this first paper the simplest case of one space dimension is analyzed. We provide a technique to derive an analytical approximation of the evolution of the automaton in terms of a momentum-dependent Schrödinger equation. Such approximation works very well in all regimes, including ultrarelativistic and Planckian, for the typical smooth quantum states of field theory with limited bandwidth in momentum. Finally we discuss some thought experiments for falsifying the existence of the automaton at the Planck scale.

Real quantum computing is still in its infancy. Efforts so far have been plagued by noise and the small number of qubits available—the current state of the art is 4! Researchers—and especially outside evaluations—find it hard to tell whether current quantum computers are actually doing quantum computation. This is an area where many discoveries are likely to clarify quantum phenomenon, and perhaps, as in this story, open up completely new vistas on how the universe is organized.

If you are already familiar with the basics of quantum phenomena and want to learn more about quantum computing, the Wikipedia articles on the field are excellent places to start.

Artificial Life is a kind of computational model of the biology of life as we know it. Starting with very simple worlds, models have become more and more sophisticated to the point where significant discoveries about emergent features are being made. Larger, faster simulations feature co-evolving organisms in ecosystems and environments that have been molded by biological processes. Wikipedia is a good place to start learning about the field.

The abstract of a current paper, “Indefinitely Scalable Computing = Artificial Life Engineering,” by David H. Ackley and Trent R. Smallon, on the state of research and ideas on applying ALife concepts to general computer architecture:

The traditional CPU/RAM computer architecture is increasingly unscalable, presenting a challenge for the industry—and is too fragile to be securable even at its current scale, presenting a challenge for society as well. This paper argues that new architectures and computational models, designed around software-based artificial life, can offer radical solutions to both problems. The challenge for the soft alife research community is to harness the dynamics of life and complexity in service of robust, scalable computations—and in many ways, we can keep doing what we are doing, if we use indefinitely scalable computational models to do so. This paper reviews the argument for robustness in scalability, delivers that challenge to the soft alife community, and summarizes recent progress in architecture and program design for indefinitely scalable computing via artificial life engineering.

The Red Queen hypothesis is one of the key concepts of modern evolutionary biology.