Monday, February 27, 2006

Changing the world, for the better?

First a reading exercise, go, read it, and then come back.

So you read it, right?

Before I'd read this, the only other 'literature' I'd read on aging and its potential effects on society were Asimov's robot novels. In them, he imagines that among the side-effects of people living to practically unlimited life-spans, would be that people would not reproduce as much (questionable), avoid risk taking of any kind (possible), reject any new ideas (quite possible), and stall the progress of the human race entirely (no guess). Quite a disheartening outlook.

As you can imagine, it's quite different from Mr. Bostrom's thesis. Asimov, although usually eager to embrace change, even defining the change itself many times, may have been too stuck in his ways to be able to accept that unending life might be a good thing.

But thinking about more of Asimov's writing, like say the "The Last Question," it seems that when he actually doesn't make it the crux of the story, he finds a long life to be quite worth living. Of course in "The Last Question," Woman/Man*, have created one universe-girdling supercomputer, which babysits humanity, allowing for a population explosion that *completely dwarfs* any imaginable population explosion - I remember something like humanity occupying the entire known universe in a few hundred or thousand years. After this, since there's pretty much no place left to move into, people's life spans seem to keep increasing, ending with people abandoning their physical manifestation for an electronic life. The final killer is entropy - the universe seems to end with a cold whimper.

Among his other short stories, Asimov and his contemporaries seem to have a vision of human kind as the underdogs of the universe, arriving on a stage where there are many mature civilizations, all of their maturity going to waste in the face of human courage/intelligence/vigor or some other such typically human trait. Much of this must have been due to the great editor John W. Campbell's insistence on humanity as a master-race; the same reason that Asimov himself gave for having no aliens in most of his stories.

Perhaps he actually saw human striving to accomplish something in the few years of individual existence as the defining characteristic of humanity. Take away that mad scramble, and what does it leave? Will we be able to recognize a humanity which does not need to look past its short term objectives?

Hmm, now that I ask myself the question, yeah I'd damn well like to see a humanity that can look past short-term objectives, get its head out of its collective ass, and rocket off this coffin of a planet.

So on this issue, I think I'll prefer to stay optimistic and go with trying to live an incredible life for ever and ever. The Lord** knows, we young people feel and behave as though we're going to live life forever anyway.

So what else can we think of as side-effects of immortality?

Painful sunday afternoons?

Century taxes - if you live a century you get to pay 40% of your current wealth as tax - can't imagine that becoming popular. Imagine Bill Gates, or Larry Ellison, earning and earning and earning, would they, could they, concentrate all the wealth of the world between them?

Relationships - would "till death do us part" hold the same ring to it? Indian culture holds divorce as taboo, would that continue?

Reincarnation, he he he, those guys would have a tough time explaining it to the kids, if there are any.

Imagine immortality, and discovering that, what with the speed of light and other such pedestrian constraints, we as a race can't even get off the Earth! What kind of weird life would that lead to? Nothing better than today perhaps, with far more constraints on resources?

Or imagine the Singularity, with all its attendant glory/madness and whatever else we cannot even imagine now.

Well, whatever is up, I hope it happens fast. I, for one, can't take the Sunday afternoons for much longer...

fReaK ouT!

* My token attempt at placating/infuriating The Feminists
** HHGTG reference. In case you didn't notice, I've got to have at least one per blog,spot more for chocolates.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Vhaat ya lowely!!!

At least, that's what I said when I read this article on Tulsa, the upcoming server processor from Intel, and found that it has ONE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED MILLION transistors.

Let me repeat that - ONE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED MILLION!!!!!!!! That's more bloody transistors than there are people in India!!

*pant, pant, drool, drool* goes the Electrical Engineer in me. Moore's law, may you long hold!

In contrast the Opteron has around 270 million transistors. And check out the photos that you can die for on each of those links. Get it? Die for, processor die, hee hee.

Of course, as I read on /., more and more it looks like Intel is actually a massive manufacturing company, incidentally using its R&D to keep the fabs full. These fabs are among the most technically advanced in the world - few others are shipping 65nm parts in the volume that Intel is!

In this particular case, with Tulsa, Intel is clearly showing the pain it faces with the totally out-dated NetBurst architecture. With its 20+ pipeline stages, the NetBurst architecture requires an extremely low-latency cache to keep bubbles short in its pipeline. In a server architecture, where the code keeps jumping around, making a mockery of Branch Prediction, cache is all the more important. The schmoo-plot in the Tulsa page, and the detailed description, show that the Tulsa can actually run at 3.9GHz! That's a clear victory on processor speed for Intel though.

And that's where the large number of fast transistors bites back - Tulsa runs out of margin on thermal dissipation! The Register had an interesting article quoting an Intel exec that if the power consumption on processors kept increasing at the same rate it was, the heat density would surpass a nuclear reactor!

And what's the biggest cost on the Tulsa? The massive 16MB L3 cache. Necessary not just because of the long pipeline, not just because it's a server processor, but also because the front-side bus is shared between the two cores, unlike the Opteron which has a separate HT link from each processor.

So how're the other guys making it up? Sun's got Niagara, and the upcoming NiagaraII and Rock, AMD is going gung-ho on Opteron and derivatives, IBM has already been doing multi-core, and is looking at Power6 in the near future. These guys have been concious of IPC, power budget and that frequency boosts increase power dissipation quadratically, for quite some time. While Sun is going for 'torrents' of simple processor - 8 processors with 4 threads each in Niagara, AMD and IBM are going for more hefty dual-core and quad-core processors.

Well that was long :-). Let me know if you've got any drool-worthy pics!

fReaK ouT!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Today's lesson: Startups

What in the name of Ba'al Zebûb do I know about startups? Well I figure that most of what I know can be filled up in a few links. Ok, maybe not so few. Ok, maybe not just a few links. But let me give it a shot anyway, huh? And in any case, "The little I know about startups, but really, really want to tell you anyway," doesn't sound quite so crisp.

As you probably know by now, I'm an Apple fan. Nope, not the fruit, the computer. One of the guys who worked at Apple, both during the initial days under Steve Jobs, and again for a few years after Jobs rejoined the company was Guy Kawasaki. His title the second time around was Chief Evangelist. What was his job? He had to go around and get people interested in buying Apple stuff. Cool job! I'd take it myself, given the chance... Actually, I'll take Chief Evangelist at Elina :-)...

Anyway, Guy's blog is a must read. He exhibits some serious clarity of thought, and you realise that the Mac just didn't happen, there were a bunch of guys with the vision who made it happen. He's now a serial entrepreneur and runs his own Venture Capital fund.

And I found an article at /. quite timely, it has a great many ideas on what and what not to do. Of course as in all things 90% is bullshit, and the other 10%, well that's a bit generous for /., let's say about 2% of it makes sense. Reading with a threshold of more than 3, and threaded with posts ordered by moderation helps.

That's all for today folks! What you were expecting more? You think I get paid for this? Maybe when I finish with my first startup :-D, I'll know a little more.

But I'll tell you what definitely works! Nepotism! Know the people you need to work with, believe in what you're doing, and be able to sell to them.

As I read somewhere on /., the correct order of things to do for a startup,
  1. Sell the product,
  2. Get enough money to make the product (VC/other),
  3. Hire the people to make the product,
  4. Make the product,
  5. Make money.
We're not quite following the same business plan, we don't have customers yet :-). But the idea is intriguing.

And a sneak preview at tomorrows blog - incredibly breath-taking schmooplots, awe-inspiring die photos!! And an incredibly large number of transistors!!!

Au revoir!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What does One do,

when One starts a blog? I guess One'll have to look for inspiration to write something. Hmm. What is something; how can One write about it?

Oh yeah, there's One thing I'm going to do. I'm going to put up all the weird links that I keep sending the hapless people around me, immediately after I get tired of the whole 'One' thing. What sort of weird links, you wonder?

One hot sample, (safe for work (unless you have a particularly anal boss (or restrictive firewall policies))), coming right up.

Go ahead, click on it and also read the two comments that follow.

Now the second guy? He's a geek God....

No, no, not all of the Mindless Links I propagate are actually mindless. Some are much weirder, and some are not so weird. Some will make you think, some will make you puke.

Some may help prevent you from puking; at that point in life where the entire length of your small and large intestine wants to leap straight past your stomach and liver, take the sharp bend up your esophagus, leap breathlessly out of your nose, all to just start strangling you. Why would it want do *that*? Perhaps you carelessly recited some Vogon poetry, indulged yourself by recklessly guzzling a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, or it was the sheer fear at the sight of a live Ravenous BugBlatter Beast of Traal. Perhaps it just hates you anthropomorphizing it.

Apart from those, I might actually write something original and interesting, original and uninteresting, interesting but unoriginal, and finally, uninteresting and unoriginal, wHo kNoWs? I'm just here for the ride.

fReaK ouT!