Atoms and Bits
August 3, 2022 1:23 AM   Subscribe

The story so far: So until some random assortment of matter and energy somehow arranged itself into what we think of as 'life', the universe was just that: a random assortment of matter and energy. After life, life began to arrange matter and energy, according to life -- creating life (and death) at least on the third rock from some star...

Then, somehow, life gained consciousness. Life became aware -- at some level(s) -- that it could arrange matter and energy, and other life, to its advantage (or pleasure). Eventually, it learned (at some level) the universe's code -- how it (somehow) operated according to certain 'laws'. Knowing how those worked, life could consciously arrange matter and energy (and other life) according to itself, subjecting atoms to bits, using the force (field carriers). So it goes.
  • Samsung Starts 3nm Production: The Gate-All-Around (GAAFET) Era Begins - "Samsung's 3nm process is the industry's first commercial production process node using gate-all-around transistor (GAAFET) technology, marking a major milestone for the field of silicon lithography."[0,1]
  • Micron Technology starts shipping its most advanced storage chip - "The latest chip transfers data 50% faster than Micron's previous generation NAND chips, said Alvaro Toledo, general manager of the data center storage division... Toledo said 16 of these 232-layer NAND chips can be packaged together in a casing about a third of the size of a stamp and can hold 2 TeraBytes of data."
  • The Microchip Era Is Giving Way to the Megachip Age [ungated] - "Dutch firm ASML has what is essentially a monopoly on making the tools that are essential to producing the world's most advanced chips, with the tiniest transistors. And yet even it has said that to keep Moore's Law going, just making the features on a chip smaller isn't enough. In a September 2021 presentation to investors, it talked up the idea of 'system scaling.'"[2,3]
  • In March, an industry consortium called the Universal Chiplet Interconnect Express, or UCIe, announced that Intel and AMD—usually bitter rivals—were both parties to its latest standard. That standard is intended to make it possible for anyone who follows it to create chiplets that can connect with those made by other manufacturers. The group also includes Arm, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, Samsung and other microchip design and manufacturing giants.
  • MIT's Protonic Resistors Enable Deep Learning to Soar, In Analog - "According to the researchers, their resistors are a million times faster (again, an actual figure) than previous-generation designs, due to them being built with phosphosilicate glass (PSG), an inorganic material that is (surprise) compatible with silicon manufacturing techniques, because it's mainly silicon dioxide. You've seen it yourself already: PSG is the powdery desiccant material found in those tiny bags that come in the box with new hardware pieces to remove moisture."[4]
  • The best semiconductor of them all? - "Researchers have found a material that can perform much better than silicon. The next step is finding practical and economic ways to make it."[5]
Now, how do those sentient beings go about life wielding the force to arrange matter, energy -- and other life -- according to their advantage and pleasure, creating more life (or death)?
  • @LMSacasas: "Modernity traded locally shared common worlds for a desituated public sphere built on shared knowledge mediated by institutions and experts. What we're living through is the collapse of that arrangement and the subsequent dissolution into virtually shared common worlds."
"To the extent that propaganda is based on current news, it cannot permit time for thought or reflection. A man caught up in the news must remain on the surface of the event; he is carried along in the current, and can at no time take a respite to judge and appreciate; he can never stop to reflect. There is never any awareness -- of himself, of his condition, of his society -- for the man who lives by current events." —Jacques Ellul, Propaganda (1973)
  • @LMSacasas: "Maybe the problem is the very idea of 'news.' The message of the digital medium is the obsolescence of 'news.' 'News' presumes an environment of information scarcity. Nobody gets the 'news' in this sense anymore, from any source."
  • The Disorders of our Collective Consciousness - "McLuhan, I'll note in passing, also understood the dynamics of the so-called attention economy long before the term was coined. 'Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems,' he warned, 'to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don't really have any rights left.' 'Leasing our eyes and ears and nerves to commercial interests,' he added, 'is like handing over the common speech to a private corporation [!], or like giving the earth's atmosphere to a company as a monopoly.' In other words, we do not own our extended nervous system, nor our external memories or our augmented voices. And this only heightens the disorders of our collective consciousness. It generates a kind of paranoia about what we perceive, which in the meta-discourse of our collective mind takes the form of endless debates about tech platforms, free-speech, deep fakes, filter bubbles, etc."[6]
  • The Paradox of Democracy - "At the heart of democracy lies a contradiction that cannot be resolved, one that has affected free societies since their advent: Though freedom of speech and media has always been a necessary condition of democracy, that very freedom is also its greatest threat. When new forms of communications arrive, they often bolster the practices of democratic politics. But the more accessible the media of a society, the more susceptible that society is to demagoguery, distraction, and spectacle."[7]
  • @LMSacasas: "The thing about judgment is not that you might be wrong, but that you might be held responsible. This is the 'problem' a lot of algorithmic decision making tools seem designed to eliminate in practice."
  • @LMSacasas: "Arendt proposed that a stable material culture anchors human identity. If so, what happens when the world of stuff becomes increasingly disposable and virtualized?"[8]
  • The Stuff of Life: Materiality and the Self - "These are instances of social remembering. Our own recollection is tied to others with whom we have shared our life. So, for example, amongst a group of old friends a past scene might be gradually reconstructed as members of the group contribute their own particular perspectives—sometimes correcting one another, sometimes supplementing. We might think of it as a puzzle whose pieces are distributed amongst several people. All must be present, supplying their own pieces, in order for the whole to emerge. And when it does, each person receives a bit of themselves back as a gift."
  • The Dialectics of Rick & Morty - "in the past people ascribed generally to organized religion as the dominant way to engage with the unknowable nature of reality, which you know didn't historically go in a non-violent way. saying jesus [ __ ] christ isn't taking the lord's name in vain. arrogantly oppressing the downtrodden and forcing your personal values upon them in the name of god is taking the lord's name in vain. but organizing societal consciousness around religion does actually provide a shared sense of meaning and morality. the farther we've moved from a communal responsibility to a higher power, the deeper we have drenched ourselves in ironic detachment from all meaning. if you don't believe me, look around you. look at the internet: the pocket dimensions and ever-shifting sands of increasingly niche cultures. everyone gives a [ __ ] about everything. no one gives a [ __ ] about anything. society is fractured into so many different value systems the only universal law is that someone will think you're evil for whatever it is you do believe. so why not start just telling ironic jokes in the face of overwhelming cosmic horror, the alternative is subscribe to whatever the dominant value system may be and discover the eternal emptiness within its promise. why the [ __ ] would you care about something, why bother having empathy for people that are always gonna try to [ __ ] you, why try when you're an h2o molecule in a wave that's crashing whether or not you feel like hitting the shore. the very least we can do in a cold unforgiving universe is wink at each other at how [ __ ] we all are because god forgot about us. so we spend our whole lives fighting to make the world better, then we don't succeed, then we die, and eventually the sun explodes. so why do we try at all. so dive into the uncomfortable areas, lean into the terrifying expanse, and tell a [ __ ] joke. no one can hear you scream in space, but no one can hear you laugh, either, and laughing's more fun."[9]
"The truth of being human is gratitude, the secret of existence is appreciation, its significance is revealed in reciprocity. Mankind will not die for lack of information; it may perish for lack of appreciation." —Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, "The Patient as Person"[10,11]
also btw...
The One-Eyed African Queen Who Defeated the Roman Empire - "Cocky male monarchs underestimated Queen Amanirenas for her gender, her race, and her disability. Each time, they did so at their own peril."[12]
posted by kliuless (13 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
kliuless, our beloved Adam Curtis of Metafilter. Never stop connecting the dots, my friend.
posted by gwint at 5:42 AM on August 3 [10 favorites]

Jeepers, that article under the first link! Particle physics really is the ultimate puzzle. But the question is, what is the prize for solving it?
posted by jabah at 6:31 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]

Where is (post?)-humanity going? Virtually, cough, everywhere. Looking at the 3nm chips and insanely high density digital storage I am deeply pained by the source of the following quote but it is surprisingly cognizant.

The challenge comes down to "basically fitting a supercomputer in the frame of glasses," Zuckerberg said.

Although I fully expect one day, in the middle of a museum, projectile vomiting due to the user interface.
posted by sammyo at 8:57 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]

The challenge comes down to "basically fitting a supercomputer in the frame of glasses," Zuckerberg said.

I'm surprised there still hasn't been a serious effort to go the other direction and make smart goggles that are as small, thin, energy-efficient, and dumb as possible. Trying to convince society to get around in an Oculus-like bathysphere seems odd to me. Just about everyone walks around with the functional equivalent of a supercomputer in their pocket, which coincidentally might occasionally make phone calls. Most of the time that device is idle.

Other than advertising corps pushing ads or otherwise surveilling people's movements and habits to push ads, or not having their own real hardware platform (e.g., Facebook/Meta), there's no need for a standalone device to go out the cloud, when all the real work can be done locally and efficiently on that pocket supercomputer.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 9:23 AM on August 3

It's misguided to try to conceptualize life as being somehow separate from the physical universe. We're just another way for the laws of physics to express themselves. We're ripples on the surface of a lake—transient patterns passing through the medium of matter and energy, in no meaningful way distinct from it. Why then did those patterns arise? Why does life exist? Because it's good at creating entropy. We're self-propagating entropy engines. That's it. That's the joke.
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:33 AM on August 3 [6 favorites]

Particle physics really is the ultimate puzzle. But the question is, what is the prize for solving it?

We don’t know! Physics is like a Kinder egg and finding out what’s on the inside is the prize.
posted by Revvy at 9:34 AM on August 3

Woah link farm. This is going to take a lot of time to digest, as it all looks interesting, right down to the P.S. Thanks!
posted by Quasirandom at 9:44 AM on August 3

My favorite piece in this is Illya Prigogine's "Dissapative Systems".

If I understand it, this is where you have a flow of Energy *through* a system. Then "ordered parts" can spontaneously arise as the Energy flows through. Suggested as the basic mechanism for how (order) life arises from (unordered) goop.
posted by aleph at 10:05 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]

Atoms and Bits

That was my favorite breakfast cereal when I was a kid!
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:31 AM on August 3

> So until some random assortment of matter and energy somehow arranged itself into what we think of as 'life', the universe was just that: a random assortment of matter and energy.

The words "just" and "random" are doing way too much work in that sentence, and have downed tools in protest, refusing to convey any meaning at all.

The universe has been spontaneously self-assembling itself into ever-more-complicated arrangements ever since it first condensed out of nothing. "Life" is not fundamentally different from "non-life" in this respect. Even "matter" and "energy" are spontaneously self-assembled.

It seems to be a somehow fundamental characteristic of the universe, that it constantly elaborates on itself.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 12:20 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]

In our, to date, best pictures, the universe mocks us with it's inexplicable beauty, majesty, mystery. We are like junior high students, assigned to serve cookies at the Met Gala, surrounded by effects, that even the planners don't fully grasp.

And, a squirrel who has been visiting my porch for treats, executed a wild series of flips, alone on my front lawn, a few feet from me, just showing off, because...I have no response but extroverted delight, energetic delight, silent delight, and no other discernible reason. Anyway. We are encouraged by societal structures, how we raise children, obeisance to artificial social structures which support acquisitional enterprises and servitude to these, to not be here, nope to keep our eyes on someone else's prize, and as they say, "The present, is the present."
posted by Oyéah at 3:27 PM on August 3

It seems to be a somehow fundamental characteristic of the universe, that it constantly elaborates on itself.

The Free Energy Principle may be the underlying reason.
posted by mikeand1 at 11:41 AM on August 4

Contrary to all beliefs, this is free. Getting fuel and a garage, for our flesh machines, that is where it gets tricky.
posted by Oyéah at 8:47 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]

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