Apr 7, 2007

The World's Most Beautiful Supercomputer

The Mare Nostrum supercomputer at the Centro Nacional de Super- computacion, Barcelona, is currently the most powerful supercomputer in Europe, featuring 2560 JS21 blade computing nodes, each with 2 dual-core IBM 64-bit PowerPC 970MP pro- cessors running at 2.3 GHz for 10240 CPUs in total. Residing in a former chapel named Torre Girona, it's undoubtedly an impressive sight. In fact, it would make an excellent real-world incarnation of transhuman AI Golem XIV from Polish SF writer S. Lem's 1973 book Imaginary Magnitude. ImMag, definitely one of the most underrated works by Lem (himself easily qualifying the most underrated among SF writers), casually introduces motives like superintelligent AI, recursive self-enhancement, auto- evolution, synthetic biology, the impossibility of controlling AI with injunctions, and Dawkins' selfish genes - three years before Dawkins himself did so. Oh, and BTW, the book consists mainly of a collection of forewords - but isn't all science fiction a foreword of sorts?
ImMag was the book that introduced me to transhumanism in 1996, and when I later worked through the more popular works on transhumanism, I often found myself thinking "well, isn't this all incredibly old hat ? Haven't SF authors been elaborating on such themes since the Sixties ?" No, by and large, they haven't. Just a guy in Poland, working in isolation, wrote stories on self-replicating nanomachines. the Singularity, and pompous supercomputers.

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