Thursday, May 12, 2005

Self-Replicating Robots!!

LinuxInsider carried an article about self-replicating robots. Haven't these guys seen The Matrix? Just kidding!
The article says that this self-replication is pretty simplistic compared to biological self-replication. In my opinion, it may be simplistic in terms of scale, but conceptually it carries a lot of the properties of biological self-replication.
  • "These robots are made up of a series of modular cubes called " molecules," each containing identical machinery and the complete computer program for replication. " That is analogous to each of our cells carrying our entire genetic code.
  • "The new robots in Lipson's lab are very dependent on their environment. They draw power through contacts on the surface of the table" We too are very dependent on our environment. We need a very specific environment to draw our power. We need the right temperature. We need the energy of the sun that gets converted through complex mechanisms to glucose burning in our cells. One could imagine if these individual cells could take solar energy and go smaller in size (if laptops and cell phones and mp3 players can, so can these cubes), we wouldn't be too far from replicating simple biological structures.
  • "They cannot replicate unless the experimenters "feed" them by supplying additional modules." Even we need a very protected environment when we replicate (or are in the early phases of replication).

In short, if these "molecules" get smaller, can derive their energy from their environment (solar?, heat?), and if one mega structure has the master-print for each of these molecules and can manufacture it from say (sand), a Matrix-like scenario isn't too far off. Half a century, what say!!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Article on Fundamentalism in The Times of India

The Times Of India carried an interview of Salman Akhtar on Fundamentalism. His views on religion resonated a lot with my own views. It was interesting to read about the six problems to cope with for being sane. Here is my take on each of these problems.
  1. Factual Uncertainty: Accepting that we cannot know what will happen in the future.
    I guess I follow a different religion here ;) called determinism. I somehow believe that given the current state of the universe, it is possible to know the future. I know about Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. I also know that the human will may not be bound to the universal calculator. As a good friend of mine, Gaurav Bhajpai, tells me "Mother Nature does not owe it to us to be explicable". However, in my most inner gut I still hold this belief that we can calculate the future. We just dont know how to today. Since this is blind faith, I call it my religion :)
  2. Conceptual Complexity: All feelings, thoughts and acts are determined by many factors
    If it were really very simple, wouldnt life be boring? I, for one, am thankful for having this problem.
  3. Moral Ambiguity: Morality changes with time and context
    If only more people accepted this, we wouldnt have so much conflict. Morality has a purpose. That purpose is to make sure that we humans lead a secure, blissful existence. Any moral law is valid as long as it fulfills this purpose. When external context changes such that a moral law no longer serves this purpose, it is obsolete and needs to be discarded.
  4. Cultural Impurity: Reality is always hybrid and there is no such thing as purity
    Purity may not exist in reality, but I do believe it is a conceptual state that one can strive towards. Purity in music, purity of emotion, pure unadulterated water, etc. etc. Nature maximizes entropy. Human efforts for organization go against this natural law. Purity in anything requires the utmost of human efforts against this natural law.
  5. Accepting personal responsibility for one's actions
    No excuses. This is a tough one. It is very easy to give excuses or cite circumstances. Even tougher to accept all of one's natural instincts as natural.
  6. Total Mortality: You are born as parental fantasies and die as your grand-children's memories.
    Not if you have a blog and google stays around for some time :) There is always a desire to leave behind something timeless. I hope this blog is fulfilling some of that atleast. But yaa.....I dont buy reincarnation or after-life.
I guess I am not a fundamentalist because I dont have too much of a problem with the problems of being sane. Good for me!!
But I do believe that religion has brought about a lot of "moral" behaviour in this world and I cant think of a better alternative to enforce "morality" across the masses.