Re: Jaron Lanier

From: Perry E.Metzger (
Date: Wed Nov 26 2003 - 12:15:35 MST

Eugen Leitl <> writes:
> In my personal view, the screwup is directly traceable to the
> introspection illusion of a single sequential-process observer and
> not a large mess of concurrent processes occuring all in
> parallel.

We've done much more work on the parallel architectures path than
people seem to remember. I'm a veteran of several parallel computation
projects in the late 1980s, like the DADO Machine, the Y Machine, etc.

Huge amounts of effort was expended on trying to produce new, parallel
paradigms for computation to take advantage of massively parallel
hardware. Hundreds of radical new designs were worked on, with all
sorts of innovative ideas -- everything from moving to smart memory
and dumb computation to data flow architectures to everything else you
can imagine.

The result of all of it was that you could produce some interesting
architectures for specific computational tasks, but producing
something that had general programming utility was damn hard. We just
don't know how to do it well.

> It is curious that many of the pioneers (Turing's morphogenesis, Zuse's
> Rechnender Raum, Ulam/Neumann's cellular automata; doubtless many
> others, not all of them published) did attempt to pursue alternative
> paradigms for computation. The hardware base was hostile to that
> thinking at the time (now, paradoxically, we have to embrace the
> cellular approach as we begin the feel the constraints of computational
> physics), but one can't help but to wonder how an alternative
> landscape of computing could have developed, if some of those early
> founders did push into that alternative universe fork.

I don't think the problem was hardware. I think the problem is that
you can show that some cellular automaton is Turing Equivalent and
massively parallel, but actually making it do useful work requires
techniques we don't understand. By contrast, the Von Neumann style lent
itself very easily to real world work.


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