Sunday, August 17, 2008

The ethics of computers

Only six years ago the New York Times announced that a Japanese laboratory had built the world's fastest computer, ..."a machine so powerful that it matches the raw processing power of the 20 fastest American computers combined and far outstrips the previous leader, an I.B.M.-built machine." (That is 35.6 trillion mathematical operations per second)

As is true of the robotics field as well the Japanese machine reveals very different ethics and commitment than their US counterparts.

The Japanese government financed this computer to be used at the Earth Simulator Research and Development Center in Yokohama ..." to analyze climate change, including global warming, as well as weather and earthquake patterns. "

"By contrast", the article says, "the United States has predominantly focused its efforts on building powerful computers for simulating weapons, while its efforts have lagged in scientific areas like climate modeling."

Forward 6 years to June of this year and true to the double exponential acceleration towards the singularity suggested by Ray Kurzweil, CNN announced that engineers from IBM and Los Alamos (sounds a bell?) have designed a computer capable of sustaining 1,000 trillion operations per second.

Can you guess what this computer will be dedicated to?
  • It will be used to help maintain the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile
So while most of the supercomputers around the world work towards solving some of the most urgent problems that we face, the US government through its military establishment keeps its accelerated pace towards our destruction.

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