Thursday, February 23, 2006

One step closer to Kurzweil’s Singularity?

Everytime I read a story like this one, I wonder whether the ever more violent "clash of civilizations" and the willingness of the Western World to appease Muslim intransigence turns a truly modern society’s quest for knowledge and technological innovation into a joke.
'Borg' Computer Collective Designs NASA Space Antenna

Like a friendly, non-biological form of the Borg Collective of science fiction fame, 80 personal computers, using artificial intelligence (AI), have combined their silicon brains to quickly design a tiny, advanced space antenna.

If all goes well, three of these computer-designed space antennas will begin their trip into space in March 2006, when an L-1011 aircraft will take off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The airplane will drop a Pegasus XL rocket into the sky high above the Pacific Ocean. The rocket will ignite and carry three small Space Technology (ST5) satellites into orbit.

Each satellite will be equipped with a strange-looking, computer-designed space antenna. Although they resemble bent paperclips, the antennas are highly efficient, according to scientists.

"This is the first time an artificially evolved object will have flown in space," observed Jason Lohn, who led the project to design the antennas at NASA Ames Research Center, located in California's Silicon Valley…

Scientists also can use the evolutionary AI software to invent and create new structures, computer chips and even machines, according to Lohn. "We are now using the software to design tiny microscopic machines, including gyroscopes, for spaceflight navigation," he ventured.

Four NASA Ames computer scientists spent two years developing the AI evolutionary program. It can operate on as many as 120 personal computers, which work as a team. The scientists wrote the AI software to create designs faster than a human being could.

"The software also may invent designs that no human designer would ever think of," Lohn asserted. In addition, the software can plan devices that are smaller, lighter, consume less power, are stronger and more robust among many other things – characteristics that spaceflight requires, according to Lohn.
(Hat tip Instapundit.com)

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