How possible is it to build a brain on Jupiter, a computer the size of a planet? Only in the last few decades has the amount of computing power available to humanity has increased dramatically. Your smartphone is millions of times more powerful than NASA computers used to send astronauts to the moon on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Computers have become an integral part of our lives, becoming the backbone of our communications, finance, education, art, healthcare, military and entertainment. In fact, it would be difficult to find an area of our lives that is not affected by computers.
And now imagine that one day we make a computer the size of an entire planet. And we’re not talking about the Earth, we’re talking about bigger ones, huh megastructure the size of a gas giant like Jupiter. What would be the consequences for people to control a computer of this size, with an absolutely huge, virtually unlimited amount of computing power? How would our lives change? One certainly begins to evoke the transformational effects of having so many ears, from energy generation to space travel and colonization to a fundamental change in the life expectancy and abilities of future people.
But while such speculation easily takes us into the realm of fiction, what are the known facts about the creation of such an impressive computer? How difficult would it be?
The boundaries of Jupiter’s brain
The construction of Jupiter’s brain will depend on specific factors that limit the power of the computer, as pointed out by the Swedish computational neurologist and transhumanist. Anders Sandberg in his seminal 1999 paper on the subject. His work, The Physics of Information Processing Subjects: Everyday Life in Jupiter’s Brains, focuses on the conditions for building such a huge computer. As Anders writes in his report, “the laws of physics impose restrictions on the activities of intelligent beings, regardless of their motivations, culture, or technology.” Even more specifically, he argues, every civilization is also limited by the physics of information processing.
The specific physical limitations that Sanders finds when increasing the size of a computer are the following:
1. Processing and memory density
The elements that make up a computer and its memory units, all included chips and circuits, have a finite size that is limited by physics. This fact creates an “upper limit” on the processing and memory density of any computing system. In other words, you cannot create computer parts that are smaller than a certain shape, and beyond a certain size they will stop working reliably.
2. Processing speed
The speed of information processing or retrieval of memory is related to how fast electrical signals can pass through the computer, determined by the “natural timing of physical processes,” Sandberg writes.
3. Delay in communication
If we build a giant computer the size of a planet, it may experience delays in communication between its various extended parts due to the speed of light. In fact, the faster the processing speed, the longer the delay can be felt “from an internal subjective point of view”, as the scientist describes. If we want to have fewer delays, the distances in the system must be as small as possible or long distance communication must not be used.
4. Power supply
As you can imagine, an extremely large computing system would be a large power. Calculations on such a scale will require huge amounts of energy and heat dissipation management. In fact, the demand for heat emissions from large computing systems is a potential way to search the skies for advanced alien civilizations.
Sandberg offers some ways to address these challenges. Although the power and speed of individual processors may be limited, we need to focus on figuring out how to make parallel systems where all the different elements work in unison. He gives the example of the human brain, where “even very slow and inefficient elements can create a very powerful computing system.”
Processing factors and communication delays may need to be addressed by creating a more concentrated and modular computing system. Among other considerations, he proposes to give “reversible calculations”(A theoretical form of quantum computing in which the computational process is somewhat reversible over time) take a closer look, as it may be possible to achieve this type of computation without having to expend additional energy. It does not involve deleting bits and is based on reversible physics. An example of this would be copying and pasting a record along with its back. Such machines can potentially be built using reversible circuits and logic boards, as well as quantum computing, among several other approaches proposed by Sanders.
Technologies you need
One of the fun parts of trying to design a Jupiter brain is figuring out the technology that would be needed to accomplish this huge task. Besides the potential army of self-replicating swarms of nanorobots that would have to be used to assemble this huge computer; in addition to his report, Sanders proposes a design of what it takes to make a Jupiter brain called Zeus.
Zeus will be a sphere with a diameter of 11,184 miles (18,000 kilometers), weighing about 1.8 times the mass of the Earth. This super object will be made of nano diamonds called diamond. They would form a network of nodes around a central energy nucleus consisting of quantum dot chains and molecular storage systems. Another way to organize the nodes and disseminate information could be through the bark “with connections through the interior”, which Sanders finds “the most efficient in volume” and the best for cooling.
Each node would be a processing element, a memory storage system, or both, designed to operate with relative independence. The internal connections between the nodes would be optical, using optical fibers / waveguides or using “directional signals sent by vacuum”.
There will be a concentric shield around the sphere, whose function will be to offer protection from radiation and to dissipate heat in space through radiators. Zeus will be powered by fusion reactors scattered on the outside of this shield. This would make Jupiter’s brain particularly different from other hypothetical megastructures such as a Dyson sphere or Matryoshka’s brain, which could theoretically create type II civilizations on the Kardashev scale to use the energy from the stars.
Where do we get the consumables to make Jupiter’s brain? Sanders offers the collection of carbon located in or through gas giant cores lifting a star, each of several hypothetical processes that would allow type II civilizations to redirect stellar matter.
If planet-sized computers aren’t challenging enough, Sanders also offers some information processing solutions that he even called “exotic,” as they involve development or purely theoretical technology. Among them are used quantum computers, which are not only quantitatively but also “qualitatively more powerful than classical computers.” Sanders also believes that they allow reversible calculations and are the “natural choice” when it comes to nanoscale computing systems or even smaller ones. femtoscale.
Black holes could potentially be used as processing elements if they do not destroy the information, currently a contested concept. If the information is released from black holes through Hawking radiation, they could be used as information processors, the scientist suggests.
A network of wormholes, theoretical tunnels that connect remote parts of the spatial and temporal continuum, is another still proven hypothetical structure that can serve as “extremely useful” for information and communication processing.
Simulation of humanity
Another piece of philosophy that would be at home in any discussion involving The matrix also emerged from Sandberg’s article: As a civilization grows and expands its information processes to the limits of physical laws and technologies, it will at some point become “beneficial in terms of the flexibility and efficiency of individual beings to exist as software, not (biological) hardware. “
Why so? Fewer and fewer and fewer resources will be needed to maintain such a creature, which will develop automatically as code. The limits of this virtual existence are limited by the computing system in which it exists. “As technology advances, the creature will also expand,” Sanders wrote.
The Swedish philosopher and computational neurologist Nick Bostrom wrote a now well-known report on the simulation hypothesis, entitled “Do we live in a computer simulation?”In it, he calculates that the total brain activity of all people who have ever lived will be somewhere between 1033 and 1036 operations. By comparison, a computer the size of a planet like Jupiter’s brain could perform 1042 operations per second. It could simulate all human brain activity, all the minds of all people who have ever lived, “using less than a million of its processing power per second,” Bostrom wrote.
Of course, these technologies and their consequences are highly speculative at this stage, but the visualization of the futuristic gadget is a step towards its realization in the end, as happened with other technological developments. If we can imagine it, maybe we can build it.