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By – Ankit Singhal “And now ladies and gentlemen, please welcome our keynote speaker for the evening, Prof. Brown. A faculty member at California Institute of Technology, Prof. Brown is the foremost expert in the field of nuclear safety and controls. Since the UN resolution on nuclear safety last year, Prof. Brown has been traveling around the world, making nuclear power plants safer. We here at the Institute of Energy would like to thank Dr. Brown for coming here and share his thoughts with us. Without further adieu, here is Prof. Brown.” “Thank you Dr. Heish. I am glad to be here in the company of such great minds who understand the necessity of energy and how important it is to the progress of mankind. ... ….. Nuclear energy is a dangerous proposition. Once a nuclear chain reaction has been started, there is no stopping it. The temperatures generated are so high, that no mechanical device can withstand the extremes. The nuclear reaction will continue till the nuclear fuel is exhausted and there is no more nuclear material to support the fission chain reaction. We can slow the reaction down by introducing neutron-absorbing materials. Theoretically we can stop it by introducing enough cadmium into the reaction chamber so that there are no stray neutrons to bombard other atomic nuclei and stop the reaction. But that’s theory. In practice, this will just slow the reaction down. The reaction will continue till all the fuel has been exhausted. So how do you control such a reaction? Well gentlemen and ladies, you control it by keeping the reaction on a short leash. You introduce just a small amount of fuel necessary to sustain the reaction for a short period of time. When this small amount of fuel is just about exhausted, you make a decision if you want the reaction to continue or not. If you want the blades of the turbine to keep turning, you introduce more fuel into the chamber, otherwise, you let the reaction die. This is the last failsafe against uncontrolled nuclear reaction. ….… Thanks for inviting me here. If you have any questions for me, I will be wandering the convention floor. Don’t be shy. I may seem like a rich consultant, but my friends, let me tell you there is no joy more exhilarating than the curiosity of an inquisitive mind.” “Our next speaker…….. “
“Prof. Brown, can I have a minute of your time?” “Sure. Walk with me. After all this speaking, my throat is parched. Now where is the water fountain? Ah there it is. Let’s go. So what is it you would like to know Mr…?” “My name is Dr. Pradeep Sharma and I am a behavioral biologist. I very much enjoyed your talk on the nuclear fail safes and had a few more questions about it. If you don’t mind may I bore you for a few minutes?” “Oh, no problem at all. But what is Behavioral Biology? I am not familiar with that field.” “Behavioral biology, as the name suggests is the biology associated with behavior. A classic example of this phenomenon is why every one likes sweets. I mean except for
some people obsessed with their weight, every human being is attracted to sweet foods. This behavior is actually due to a biological reaction and in behavior biology we study such phenomenon. We try to predict the behavior of organisms’ in particular environmental situations.” “Sounds like a fascinating field Dr. Sharma. What would you like to know about nuclear fail-safe technology?” “Well, if I understood your presentation correctly, the fail safe mechanisms of nuclear reaction work because of the scarcity of nuclear fuel. In other words, it is possible to stop the reaction because uranium and plutonium are very scarce metals and do not occur, even in trace amounts, in the walls that make up the nuclear reaction chamber.” “You are correct. The chamber is usually made of ceramics that can withstand the temperatures and pressure developed in the reaction chamber. These materials do not have any trace amount of radioactive isotopes. You do understand that you will need U235 to sustain a nuclear reaction which is very rare indeed. For that matter, any radioactive isotope is very rare.” “Suppose, if there was a nuclear reaction that could consume oxygen. How will you design the fail safe for a test reactor for such a reaction?” “I don’t see your point. First of all, naturally occurring oxygen has a very stable nucleus and hence it is almost impossible to use it as nuclear fuel. Even if it was possible to use oxygen as fuel, I am not sure I understand your question’s point” “Dr. Brown. Oxygen is the most common element on earth followed by silicon. If it were possible to use natural isotope of oxygen as nuclear fuel, the reaction will be uncontrollable. As you mentioned in your speech, you will not be able to control the nuclear reaction by controlling the nuclear fuel supply. Oxygen will be present in any material used to construct the nuclear reaction chamber. Once the oxygen in the chamber is used up, would it not start using oxygen in the walls of the reactor and continue till all the oxygen on the planet is exhausted?” “You are correct Dr. Sharma. If such a reaction, hypothetically of course, were to start, it will continue till all the oxygen on earth is consumed. I see where you are going with this question. After all, both the atmosphere and earth’s crust are all largely oxygen. If such a nuclear reaction was to be started, it will rapidly expand and earth would become the next sun. Thankfully for us, oxygen is very stable and therefore chances of this ever happening are close to zero.” “But if it were possible, how will you control such a reaction? Let’s say, I have discovered such a nuclear reaction and I want to try it out. How can I test such a reaction? How should I build a reactor to test it?”
“But of course, it will have to be tried in space, where only vacuum surrounds this reaction. And mind you, the reaction must be carried out at a sufficient distance from any other planet. The reaction may accidentally spread to other heavenly bodies and consume nearby planetary objects. With the present technology, I cannot think of any material which will be able to withstand such extreme temperatures and not contain oxygen. This is a very interesting problem. I will have to think about it a bit more. But tell me Dr. Sharma, how come you are so interested in such a problem? I hope you have not come across such a reaction in behavioral biology.” “Not quite Prof. Brown. I do not deal with nuclear reactions. However, certain behavioral characteristics can be similar to a chain reaction. I am currently involved in some research about, for lack of a better word, environmental simulations. Some of the problem involves designing a fail safe around these experimental environments. Why don’t you come visit us at our research facility, tomorrow? I mean if you have time. I know we can benefit a great deal from your expertise.” “I’ll be delighted. In fact, you have got me all excited. I probably won’t sleep a wink tonight until I come up with some kind of solution to your problem. How about an early start tomorrow morning? Say 7:30 at your lab tomorrow.” “Perfect. I’ll see you then.” … “Welcome Prof Brown. I hope you did not have any trouble finding our facility.” “Not at all Dr. Sharma. I was actually surprised that your research facility is so far from, well, anything. I mean, on my drive here, I could see nothing for miles. Is that by design?” “Of course Prof. This is our failsafe so to speak. Some of the folks in this building experiment with microbes and exposure may lead to, umm, problems. I mean we are not working with anthrax or such, but this is safer. One of my colleagues, Francoise Bruno will join us in a moment. Let’s head over to my office. Would you like some coffee, tea, etc?” “Thanks, some coffee will be nice.” “Here is Francoise. He’ll keep you company while I’ll get you some coffee.” “Prof. Brown. What a pleasure to finally meet you. I have always admired your work.” “Thanks, I am flattered. But outside the limited field of nuclear study, I am relatively unknown. How come you know so much about my work? Are you associated with nuclear energy?”
“Oh no. I will never go near such dangerous materials. I am a computer engineer and I have made mobile AI a specialty. Some of the work I have been doing is similar to your nuclear reactions and therefore I had to look you up. I must say you have an impressive resume. I was tempted to start a fan club.” “Yes, Dr. Sharma was telling me about your work. AI means Artificial Intelligence. Right? What does Mobile AI mean?” “A very good question. Actually, most of theoretical AI, that has been implemented so far, all relates to data processing. It is used either to play chess or do statistical analysis on genome sequencing or weather modeling. However, AI also has application in mobile robots. This imposes some very basic limitations on AI design. For one, you cannot have large super computer mounted on a three foot robot. At least, not yet. While working with such constraints, we have to take a few short cuts and that’s where I come in. It’s a niche field of study.” “You guys are an odd pair. One, a behavioral biologist and the other works with mobile AI. What is it that you guys do? Ah here he is. Thanks. For a research lab, you guys have good coffee.” “You are welcome. So, what do we do? Well before we tell you, let me ask you a question. Have you seen Jurassic Park Prof. Brown?” “But of course. Who has not seen that movie? Spielberg at his best.” “Well, how do you think the movie will end?” “What do you mean, all three of those movies end with the humans escaping out of the islands, hoping to never see the dinosaurs again. I don’t understand what you mean by that.” “It’s a little difficult to put it simply. I mean in part three, there was evidence that dinosaurs are intelligent and vicious and although they were confined to a remote island, they certainly could migrate out of it. Some were able to fly. What do you think this will lead to?” “I see. You are asking me what will be the story of Jurassic park IV. Well. I suppose the next movie will be about some dinos flying into New York city and picking random people up from the street and feeding on them on top of Empire State building. That will be quite a spectacle.” “Precisely. Dinosaurs in the city. How do you think this movie will end?” “Oh there can be only one ending. The humans will drop an A-bomb on the home base of the dinosaurs and that will be the end of it. Dinosaurs will be extinct. Again.”
“Yipee. See. I told you Sharma. You owe me 10 bucks. Thanks Prof. Brown. You just made a point I have been trying to make for over a month now. Sharma here believes in the peaceful coexistence of dinos and humans but we know that this conflict can end only with the extinction of one of the species.” “Excuse me. You mean the extinction of dinosaurs. Right? After all we are so much more technologically advanced than dinosaurs. They don’t stand a chance against human intelligence.” “Well Prof. Brown. Francoise here may be right about the fight till death. But as to who will win depends on a lot of things. If you think that humans will win just because they have superior technology, you may be in for a surprise. Dinosaurs may have a bigger brain mass, they are definitely bigger, stronger and more vicious than the humans. If technology is all that separates us, then the battle will be quite bloody for the humans.” “I don’t like where this conversation is heading. You guys have to tell me, what is it you are doing here? Are you creating killer robots on some island? That will explain the need for failsafe and curiosity in my work. Tell me. Am I correct?” “Prof. Brown, don’t get upset. Sharma here does not know the fine art of subtlety. We are not creating any killer robots on some island. At least, not yet. Let me tell you what we are doing. Have you ever heard of mutating algorithms? Well they are mathematical constructs which theoretically have the potential to evolve. About a year ago, while working with mutating algos, I isolated one particular instance of the algorithm that was probing the system memory for resources. The mutation algos had been written to solve a complex mathematical problem. All of the instances of mutated code were optimizing themselves to solving the problem more efficiently. However on closer examination, I found that this instance in question (I named it Alpha) was trying to optimize using a very unusual approach. It was pursuing resource competition rather than efficiency. In essence, it was like an aggressive plant trying to block the sunlight from other plants surrounding it.” “So you guys essentially created some mutating algorithm that shows sign of aggression. I may be a novice in computer science, but isn’t that what a computer virus does?” “Yes. That is one way to describe it. Without going into too much detail, this particular piece of code was behaving like a malicious virus, but not quite. I worked on alpha for two years. I thought that it would lead to better mutating algorithms. After some promising behavior, alpha just stopped. It became stable and the evolutionary process just died. I shelved the alpha project and moved on to other things. About six months ago, I met with Dr. Sharma. Sharma may be you should explain what you were doing.” “Sure Francois. Prof. Brown, have you ever heard of a Von-Neuman machine? “Isn’t that some kind of computer?”
“Yes it is. But Von-Neuman machine also refers to a theoretical self replicating machine. The idea originated as a Von-Neuman probe. Say you want to mine a planet. You can send a Von-Neuman probe to mine the planet. The machine will use the material found on the planet to replicate itself and these copies of the machine will mine the planet, growing in numbers with each replication cycle. Using very advanced nano technology, we had created a very basic Von-Neuman machine which uses iron and silica as raw material. I met Francois and to make a long story short, we imbedded Alpha in the VN machines and since then we have been experimenting with them. We have seen some very spectacular results which, quite frankly, scared the shit out of us. We stopped our research last month when one of the experiments nearly destroyed this facility. Since then we have been reading up on failsafe mechanisms. Hence our conversation, yesterday, Dr. Brown.” “What happened?” “The machines started replicating uncontrollably and almost started feeding on the walls and foundation of this building. We have our lab in the basement. Our usual control mechanisms failed to stop them. Thank god, there was an EMP machine which was luckily available for another project. It saved us. Otherwise the building would have collapsed on our heads.” “EMP? You mean Electro Magnetic Pulse?” “Yes.” “If I understand you correctly, the machines were multiplying by using the silica and iron in the structure of the building as raw material. How big are these machines? I mean from your description, it seems that these machines are small enough to move freely in your basement. Obviously they have some computer hardware and since they are using nanotech, they have to be fragile. What do you do for power source? “The machines are about an inch cube. They are fitted with photoelectric skin that provides the power. There is a small battery which smoothes out the effect of light variability. We lit the basement with halogen lights and this provided the power to these machines. We started with one single machine and it took about five hours for the machine to reproduce. The machines were so designed that they could stay powered for thirty minutes without light, until their batteries died. We were counting on lights to control the experiment. However, we did not expect the machines to evolve.” “Evolve? What do you mean? Did they evolve like life evolved on Earth?” “Yes. And they evolved very very fast. The second generation was identical to the starting machine. By the third generation, these machines started showing variations from the original design. We had hard coded a limit to the number of copies that a machine could reproduce. The limit was transferred to generation two. These early generation machines stopped reproducing after ten replications. However, the third generation did not have any such limit. With each generation, they became more and more efficient designs. The
fifth generation started showing signs of specialization where certain machines were optimized as processors, certain were optimized for mobility and some were optimized to act as batteries. We had expected this to a certain degree. What was most remarkable was that these machines started combining to make more complex machines so quickly. We started seeing three to five machines group together to make bigger machines. By eights generation, some machines were not independent cubes, but larger more complex systems. There were some other machines which were simpler and much smaller. By the tenth generation, they had multiplied too much and exhausted all the sand we had in the basement. We turned off the lights and waited for these machines to die. Unfortunately, these machines evolved and somehow tapped into the main power lines in the wall. We discovered that much later, after the incident. When the machines did not stop after three hours, with no light, we used the EMP. Thank God for that EMP.” “This is a very interesting problem. I mean this is so much bigger than the problem of limiting a nuclear reaction. Tell me guys, what do you want to achieve by these experiments? What is the final objective? Only when you know how you want the system to behave, we can design a safety valve.” “I think I speak on behalf of both me and Sharma here, we want to study these mechanical organisms and how they evolve and interact with each other. We observed them for only one week. Within a week, they had evolved into some of the most efficient machines I have ever seen. I am still doing a post mortem of some of them and from what I have seen, we can file at least 38 different patents in electronics and mechanical engineering. When Sharma is done, with his analysis, we are looking at another five to ten in chemistry. Look at the amount of knowledge we have uncovered within one week. Think about what we can achieve if the experiment continues for a month or a year.” “You said that the machines use silica and iron as the raw material. What if you created large cube with walls of some inert material and conducted your experiments in there. Better yet, nanotech must have some kinds of inhibitors. Some gas or acid must be able to destroy the nanotech and should be able to kill these machines.” “Actually we had tried that. In some of our previous experiments, we tried these machines with environments of corrosive minerals, liquids, gasses and even organic materials and plastics. In each case, by the third generation, the machines had not only developed immunity to these materials we thought would destroy nonotechs but were using them in reproducing. These machines are amazing. They used anything we introduced them to. Some materials took longer to assimilate while some were more readily assimilated. We were so excited when we saw the machines assimilated both concentrated sulphuric and nitric acid. We may subject them to some stronger gases. Maybe even light of different wavelengths. In early experiments, they were affected by ultraviolet, but in one of the iterations, they developed tolerance to it and from then on, started using it as an energy source.” “You know I joke with Sharma about this, these machines are like the Borgs from Star Trek. Resistance is futile.”
“What about conducting this experiment on a space station? If they start eating up the space station, they will be burned up by the atmosphere and nothing will come down to the earth. With the spectacular results you guys have had, I am sure NASA will lend you all the hardware you need.” “Actually we had thought about it. But how will we monitor these machines? I mean if we try to monitor them with cameras, sensors, etc. I am sure these sensors will be assimilated in no time. Also, if they all burn up, we will learn nothing from the experiment. If we cannot recover any machines, we will never learn about new technologies these machines are capable to develop. And then there is the concern that God forbid if any of these machines makes it to earth, then we as a planet may be threatened by these unscrupulous consumers.” “How about doing this experiment on another planet? How about the moon? From time to time, you can send a probe and monitor the progress of these machines. Earth will remain safe and you guys can monitor them from a safe distance.” “Prof. Brown, that is exactly what I had suggested. My friend Francois here is a Sci-Fi nut. Why don’t you tell us, Francois, what you think about the mechanical civilization?” “Well Prof. Brown. So we do this experiment on a different planet. These machines evolve into what we think they will. Would they not behave as we humans behave in as much as they will try to venture past their own planet? Think about it. After they have consumed every thing on the planet, they will settle into an equilibrium, sort of boredom. But these machines are intelligent. They have already demonstrated that they are capable of invention. May be, they will have different motivations, but we know for a fact that they have curiosity and aggression that I saw in Alpha. Just these two motivations will be enough for them to develop into a technological civilization and start exploring the world. What then? What will happen when they come in contact with humans? We humans may watch them however much we like, in the end, these machines do have the capacity to out distance us in technological innovations. No matter how big of a nuclear bomb we develop, we will not be able to destroy a whole planet of them. So how can we ensure that these machines will not jeopardize human life in anyway?” “Curiosity and aggression. Why not give them some kind of destructive motivation like love or lust or anger. I mean these are the motivations or as we like to call them emotions, that keep us humans from developing. I mean behind every war, there was some woman and some man’s lust for her. Or there was hatred. Why not give these machines some hatred so that these machines will be plagued with fighting, the way we have been.” “Hatred. I think you are on to something Prof. Brown. But how can we get these machines to hate each other. Sharma, this is your department. How do we give these machines hate?”
“Actually, hate is a side effect of unpredictability. Humans deal with unpredictability as anxiety and fear. Combine this with greed and competition for resources and we may have hatred. We have to give them something like fear. Something they are unfamiliar with. Something that they cannot predict and something that threatens their existence.” “Like what?” “Like themselves. See if we created some machines that they cannot interface with, these would simply make parallel civilizations. If they cannot communicate with each other, then they will treat them like raw material and the stronger will simply assimilate the weak. I think this is a viable approach. All we have to ensure is that none of them actually evolves into the strongest and wipes out the other. If we introduce six or seven base models of the machines that cannot interface, we may be able to control each one of them. If the experiment goes haywire, and one of these civilizations shows signs of becoming dominant, we can destroy them with a nuclear strike, virus or some other killer. “Why don’t you guys think about it? I have to be going. My plane leaves in two hours. Gentleman, this was most wonderful. I hope you guys will stay in touch and keep me posted on your progress. If you need any kind of help from me, just let me know. I did some work for NASA. My friends there will be thrilled to meet you.” ”Prof. Brown. Thanks so much for coming. We have so much to do. We will keep you posted. Sharma, we need to start working on non interfacing machines. We can start by changing processor architecture and instruction sets. We can also try different data layout, even try different interfacing mediums and protocols.” “Not only that, we have to change nano interface…… Epilogue
Genesis 2:7 Yahweh God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Mathew Henry comments “Jehovah is that name of God, which denotes that he alone has his being of himself, and that he gives being to all creatures and things... The earth did not bring forth its fruits of itself: this was done by Almighty power. Thus grace in the soul grows not of itself in nature's soil, but is the work of God.... Man was made of the small dust, such as is on the surface of the earth. The soul was not made of the earth, as the body” Genesis 11:3-8 They said one to another, "Come, let's make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." They had brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, "Come, let's build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top reaches to the sky, and let's make ourselves a name, lest we be scattered abroad on the surface of the whole earth." Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built. Yahweh said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is what they begin to do. Now nothing will be withheld from them, which they intend to do. Come, let's go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one
So Yahweh scattered them abroad from there on the surface of all the earth. They stopped building the city.
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