How feasible is it to create a Jupiter brain, a computer which of the size of a planet? Just in past some decades, the quantity of computational power that is available to humanity has increased dramatically. Your smartphone is many times more powerful than NASA computers used to send astronauts to the moon on Apollo 11 mission in the 1969. Computers become integral to our lives, becoming backbone of our communications, finances, education, art, health care, military & entertainment. In fact, it would be hard to determine an area of our lives that computers did not affect.
Now imagine, one day we build a computer that has the size of an entire planet. And we are not talking about Earth, but larger, a megastructure size of a gas giant like planet Jupiter. What would be the implications for humans to operate a computer of that size, with an absolutely huge, virtually limitless, quantity of computing power? How would our lives change? One particularly begins to conjure-up the transformational effects of having so much oomph, from energy-generation to space travel, and colonization to a fundamental change in the lifespan & capacities of future humans.
But while speculation of that kind can easily result into fictional realm, what are the known facts about creating an impressive computer? How hard would it be?
The limits of a Jupiter brain
Building a Jupiter brain would be dependent on particular factors that limit power of a computer, as outlined by Swedish computational neuroscientist & transhumanist Anders Sandberg in his seminal 1999 paper on subject. His work, named “The Physics of Informational Processing Super-objects: Daily Life Among the Jupiter Brains,” focused-on the stipulations of creating such a huge computer. As Anders writes in his paper, “laws-of-physics impose constraints on the activities of intelligent beings, regardless of their motivations, culture, or technology.” Even more particularly, he argues, each civilization is even limited by the physics of information processing.
The certain physical constraints Sanders found in super-sizing a computer are followings:
1. Processing & memory density
The elements that constitute a computers & its memory unit, all chips & circuits involved, have a finite size, which is limited-by physics. This fact makes “an upper limit” on the processing & memory density of any computing system. In other words, you cannot produce build computer parts that are smaller than a particular shape, beyond a particular size they will stop performing reliably.
2. Processing speed
The speed of information processing, or memory retrieval is related-to how fast electrical signals can travel via computer, determined by “natural time-scales of physical processes,” writes Sandberg.
3. Communication delays
It might experience delays in communication between its different parts corridor due to speed of light, if we make a gigantic computer the size of a planet. In fact, faster its processing speed, longer delay might feel “from an internal subjective point of view,” as scientist describes. The distances in the system need to be as-small-as possible or else not need to use communication over long distances, if we want to have fewer delays.
4. Energy force
As you might suppose, a very large computing system would be a main power hog. Computation on such a scale would require tremendous quantities of energy and the management of heat dissipation. In fact, looking for heat emissions from large computing system is one major way to scour the sky for advanced alien civilizations.
Sandberg suggests several ways to deal with these challenges. While power & speed of individual processors may have a limit, we must turn our attention to figuring out, how to make parallel systems where all disparate elements work in unison. He gives the instance of the human brain where “even fairly slow & inefficient elements can build a very powerful computing system.”
The processing factors & delays in communication may have to be handled by building a computing system that is more concentrated & modular. Among other considerations, he even proposes giving “reversible computing” (a theoretical form of quantum computing in which computational process is to some extent time reversible) a closer look, as it may be possible to achieve this kind of computation without having to expend extra energy. It involves no bits being erased and is supported on reversible physics. An illustration of this would be copying & pasting a record, along with its inverse. This type of machines could be potentially created by using reversible circuits & logical boards and also quantum computation, among some other approaches proposed by Sanders.
Technologies you would need
One of the fun parts of trying to build a Jupiter brain is figuring-out the technology that would be important to negotiate this giant task. Besides potential army of self-replicating swarms of nano-robots that would need to be used to put this immense computer together. in an appendix to his paper, Sanders suggests a design for what it would take to build a Jupiter brain he called “Zeus.”
Zeus would be a sphere 11,184 miles (18,000 km) in diameter, weighing roughly 1.8 times the mass of Earth. This superobject would be made out of nano diamonds, called diamondoids. These would form a network of nodes near a central energy core consisting of quantum dot circuits & molecular storage systems. Another way to organize the nodes & distribute information could be through a cortex “with connections through the interior” which Sanders finds most “volume efficient” & best for cooling.
Every node would be a processing element, a memory storage system or both, meant to act with relative independence. Internal connections between nodes would be optical, using fiber optics/ waveguides or utilizing “directional signals sent through vacuum.”
Around sphere would be a concentric shield, whose function would be to give protection from radiation & dissipate heat into space through radiators. Zeus would be powered-by nuclear fusion reactors dispersed on the outside of that shield. This would make a Jupiter brain certainly distinct from other hypothetical megastructures like a Dyson Sphere or a Matrioshka Brain that Type II civilizations on Kardashev Scale could theoretically make to harness energy from stars.
Where would we get supplies to build a Jupiter brain? Sanders proposes gathering carbon located in gas giant cores or through star lifting, any one of some hypothetical processes that would allow Type II civilizations to re-purpose stellar matter.
Sanders even proposes some information processing solutions that also he termed “exotica”, as they have developing or purely theoretical technologies, if planet size computers aren’t enough of a challenge. Among these are utilizing quantum computers, which aren’t only quantitatively but “qualitatively more powerful than the classical computers.” Sanders even believes they allow for reversible computation and are “natural choice” when it comes to computing systems on the nano-scale or the also smaller femto-scale.
Black Holes could be used as processing elements if they don’t destroy information, a currently contested notion. However, they could possibly be tapped as information processors, conjectures scientist, if information is released from black holes.
A network of wormholes, theoretical tunnels that connect distant parts of the space & me continuum, is another yet to be proven hypothetical structure that may serve as “extremely useful” for information processing & communications.
Another-philosophical nugget that would be at home in any discussion involving The Matrix even emerged from Sandberg’s paper As civilization grows & expands its information processes to the limits of physical laws & technology, it’ll at some point become “advantageous in terms of flexibility & efficiency for individual beings to exist as software instead of (natural) hardware.”
Why is that so? Fewer of increasingly scarce resources would be needed to sustain such a being, which would evolve automatically as code. The limits of this virtual-existence are bounded-by the computing system it exists in. “As technology advances being will be extended too,” writes Sanders.
The Swedish philosopher & computational neuroscientist, Nick Bostrom, wrote a now famous paper on the Simulation Hypothesis named “Are we living in a computer simulation?” In it, he estimates that all brain activity by all the humans, who ever lived would amount to nearly between 1033 & 1036 operations. By comparison, a planet-sized computer like a Jupiter brain would be capable to execute 1042 operations per second. It would be able to stimulate all of human-brain activity ever, all consciousness of all the people who ever lived,“ by using less than one millionth of its processing-power for one second,” writes Bostrom.
Particularly, these technologies & their implications are largely speculative at this point, but visualizing the futuristic gadgetry is one-step in making it real eventually, as has happened with other tech-developments. However, well, maybe we can build it, If we can imagine it.