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Those Tiny Chips With Huge Smelly Footprints

Low Tech Magazine presented the article titled “The monster footprint of digital technology” in which they show how the power consumption of our high-tech machines and devices is hugely underestimated:

When we talk about energy consumption, all attention goes to the electricity use of a device or a machine while in operation. A 30 watt laptop is considered more energy efficient than a 300 watt refrigerator. This may sound logical, but this kind of comparison does not make much sense if you don’t also consider the energy that was required to manufacture the devices you compare. This is especially true for high-tech products, which are produced by means of extremely material- and energy-intensive manufacturing processes… The energy consumption of electronic devices is skyrocketing…There are multiple reasons for the growing energy consumption of electronic equipment; more and more people can buy gadgets, more and more gadgets appear, and existing gadgets use more and more energy (in spite of more energy efficient technology – the energy efficiency paradox described here before).

However, most of the energy involved in electronics is not much about their use. Larger amounts of energy are being used for the production of the technology, the embodied energy.

The energy used to produce electronic gadgets is considerably higher than the energy used during their operation. For most of the 20th century, this was different; manufacturing methods were not so energy-intensive…Advanced digital technology has turned this relationship upside down. A handful of microchips can have as much embodied energy as a car… The embodied energy of the memory chip (of a computer) alone already exceeds the energy consumption of the laptop during its life expectancy of 3 years.

The trend in the manufacture of electronics is going toward more energy-intensive processes and heavier costs in terms of raw materials and resources. Did the fast development in computer processing speed and memory, coupled with the huge amount of energy needed for manufacturing them make them faster and more productive? Every Windows user knows that after one or two years of use the operating system becomes cluttered and slows down considerably.

Defragmenting the hard disk, cleaning the registry and uninstalling applications have little effect. The cooling fan runs often, often the hard disk works like hell with no apparent reason, operations get slower and slower. This can be blamed on the poorly-engineered Windows operating system, but even alternatives like Apple or Linux, though better, don’t come any closer to match the development in hardware at the software level

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The Singularity is Nearest

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Ray Kurzweil, futurist, inventor, and author of The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, looks forward to an era where humans, in their evolution, will be linked to machines, through electronics and biotechnology. His research and inventions range from music to artificial intelligence, from speech recognition to optics. Kurzweil defines The Singularity as “an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today — the dawning of a new civilization that will enable us to transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity.”

Kurzweil forecasts the enhancement of our intelligence by merging with non-biological intelligence, sending intelligent nanobots into our brains. In his view, our neurons and the nanobots will communicate on a local area network. We’ll be online all the time directly from our brains and we’ll communicate with other brains through the network.

This quest also goes in the direction of searching for radical life extension – even immortality. In the book co-authored with Terry Grossman, Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever, they write that through biotech we’re developing the tools to reprogram our biology at the most fundamental level. I have been consulted myself by Terry Grossman about health and life extension, getting interesting hints about how supplements work on my biology.

When Kurzweil was interviewed by What is Enlightenment magazine (now called EnlightenNext), he stated that we are in a stage of intersection of information technology and biology where we understand life, death, disease, and aging as information processes. With our knowledge we can start to reprogram genes, seen as software codes. Merging our biological intelligence with non-biological intelligence will vastly expand human intelligence, where the thinking process will be a hybrid of the two and where the non-biological portion will be much more powerful, giving birth to new and enhanced forms of intelligence.

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Ray Kurzweil, futurista, inventore e autore di The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, immagina un’epoca non distante dove gli esseri umani, nella loro evoluzione, verranno congiunti alle macchine attraverso l’elettronica e le biotecnologie. Le sue ricerche e invenzioni spaziano dalla musica all’intelligenza artificiale, dal riconoscimento del linguaggio parlato all’ottica. Kurzweil definisce la Singolarità come “un’epoca in cui la nostra intelligenza diventerà sempre meno biologica e sarà trillioni di volte più potente di ciò che è oggi – l’alba di una nuova civilizzazione che ci consentirà di trascendere i nostri limiti biologici ed amplificare la nostra creatività.”

Kurzweil predice il miglioramento della nostra intelligenza tramite l’unione con un’intelligenza non-biologica, mandando dei nanorobot nei cervelli. Nella sua visione, i nostri neuroni e i nanorobot comunicheranno tramite una rete locale. Saremo collegati online direttamente dai nostri cervelli e comunicheremo con altri cervelli attraverso la rete.

Questa ricerca va anche nella direzione dell’estensione radicale della vita – addirittura verso l’immortalità. Nel libro che ha scritto insieme a Terry Grossman, Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever, viene affermato che attraverso le biotecnologie stiamo sviluppando gli strumenti per riprogrammare la nostra biologia al livello più fondamentale. Ho incontrato personalmente Terry Grossman riguardo la salute e l’estensione della vita, ricevendo interessanti informazioni su come i supplementi operano sulla mia biologia.

Quando Kurzweil fu intervistato dalla rivista What is Enlightenment (ora chiamata EnlightenNext), egli ha dichiarato che siamo in un’epoca di intersezione tra l’information technology e la biologia, in cui capiamo la vita, la morte, la malattia e il processo di invecchiamento come processi informativi. Tramite la nostra conoscenza possiamo iniziare a riprogrammare i geni, intesi come codici software. L’unione della nostra intelligenza biologica con quella non biologica espanderà enormemente l’intelligenza umana, dove il processo di pensiero sarà un ibrido dei due e dove la porzione non-biologica sarà molto più potente, facendo nascere nuove ed accresciute forme di intelligenza.

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