The members of an ant colony work together as if they were a single organism. The human brain has neurons that work together in the same way: one neuron is not "intelligent", as such, but a whole lot of them acting in unison make us what we are. The secret is communication, connectivity and the processing of information. In the modern world millions of people are communicating with each other in almost real time using Twitter, SMS, Facebook and other social networking tools. If a billion people are doing this and we think of each person as a single neuron, does it mean that we starting to create some kind of global intelligence?
Based on the average tweet, the global intelligence level would seem to be somewhat low at the moment and the same could be said for the content of many websites, blogs and social network pages. A lot of work is being done on machines that simulate the action of neurons in the human brain. There have even attempts to "teach" machines how to "learn" for themselves. It is estimated that some time in the next 50 years or so, enough processing power will be available in a notebook-size computer to simulate the number of neurons in the human brain which could _ theoretically _ allow it to become self-aware. So, apart from Skynet, where is this going? We could be on the verge of creating new forms of life and it might even happen in the lifetime of some Currents readers.
In recent testing, the iPhone 5 came seventh out of seven smartphones tested. Which? magazine used the Geekbench 2 test suite on the Samsung's Galaxy S4 and Note 2, Google's Nexus 4, the HTC One, Sony's Experia Z, and the BlackBerry Z10. The Galaxy S4 came out on top, judged as being over 90% better than the iPhone and 14% better than the No.2 phone, the HTC One. Of course, the S4 has a quad core 1.9Mhz CPU compared to the iPhone 5's 1.2 GHz dual core and we will need to see how the iPhone 5S performs when it finally appears, but the S4 will be hard to beat, especially with a new 2.2 GHz CPU coming out soon in the new version.
Huawei have been at it again. It's expanding its product base with the release of a new phablet _ a tablet with a phone built in. The MediaPad 7 Vogue has a seven-inch screen, good battery life and looks like everyone else's tablets. I'm not sure about the notion of holding a tablet to your ear to make a phone call, but this gizmo does have a quad core CPU and a 16 _ yes! 16! _ core GPU. Android-based with a 1024x600 pixel screen supporting 1080p playback, it weighs in at 335g, so I bet you won't be holding it up to your ear for 20 hours, its estimated call time.
We are apparently still 20 years away from the end of Moore's Law. But people have been saying the same thing for as long as I can remember. Given that silicon technologies must eventually run out, how about a quantum tunnelling transistor that works at room temperature? Boffins at the Michigan Technological University have been working on this since 2007 and they recently demo-ed a solution. Take gold quantum dots and put them on boron nitride nanotubes and you have a tiny room-temperature transistor. Apply some voltage and the electrons will tunnel between the dots; no semiconductor materials required. The unit is about 1 micron long and 20 nanometres wide. I love new technology!
Apple is facing more woes with confirmed feedback that its Macbook Air notebooks are having Wi-Fi connectivity issues. The problem is probably with the 802.11ac standard supported by the new devices; it is supposed to triple speed, but has connectivity dropping out after a minute or two. On the plus side, they are supposed to have amazing battery life. The down side is that share prices continue to fall.
Final item of news this week is from the European Southern Observatory where astronomers have found three planets in the "Goldilocks" (habitable) zone around Gliese 667C, a star which is a mere 22 light years from Earth. Even if we can develop a vessel that travels at the speed of light, the journey will still take 22 years, so I suspect it will be quite a while before a probe can be dispatched to check them out out. The processing and computer modelling required for such exploration is highly complex. A few years ago we were wondering if we'd be able to detect any planets and now we have advanced to the point where not only can we detect planets, but we can start making guesses about their ability to sustain life.
James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at email@example.com
About the author
- Writer: James Hein
Position: Database Writer