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Old 08-12-2011, 06:04 PM   #61
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Gas example simplified: You have two gallons of gas. Every year you use half of it. When will you run out?

Same as: if, with each step, you travel halfway to the wall, when will you reach it?

Answer: never
Zeno, is that you?
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Old 08-12-2011, 06:27 PM   #62
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Watson would automatically search the internet for answers to questions based on key words. It then compares each of the websites, scans for commonality and comes up with an answer.
It sounds interesting, but I see a problem. The information on those websites is mostly in English (or some other natural language), but Watson doesn't understand English (or any other natural language). I recall that a few years ago, IBM was marketing a program that would transcribe your speech in English, which of course required it to understand English. It didn't work very well, and IBM no longer markets the program. (Maybe they sold it to "Dragon"? -- Just guessing.)
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Old 08-12-2011, 07:12 PM   #63
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The device does the same work every year, just as the sun continues to shine down on us. There's no infinity.

Anyhow, the point is that exponential growth is only a problem if our means to deal with it does not also grow exponentially. And if it concerns information and computation, the means probably does grow exponentially.
No, there are fundamental minimum entropy expenditures to do a computation. Even in the wonder world of computers where I do my work, exponential growth simply cannot continue for more than a few hundred years at most.
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Old 08-12-2011, 07:25 PM   #64
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I read a theory of oil somewhere that argued that it doesn't really come from decomposing Triassic veggies but is generated spontaneously from the rocks in the mantle. Not quite endless supply but close enough for internal combustion needs.
Abiologic oil. It's an interesting idea, but the projections from that theory don't match the details we see in actual oil.

It turns out that carbon compounds formed via biological processes have different ratios of carbon isotopes than nonbiological processes produce. The slightly different atomic weights of the isotopes result in different reaction rates in some biological processes.

The isotope ratios in oil correlate well with biological processes being involved in building the carbon compounds found in oil.

Any who, there's another issue in abiologic oil formation, in that there is going to be a fixed rate at which trapped primordial carbon in the mantle diffused outward to the crust to eventually become oil and fill the trapped pockets that we find and pump. If we pump faster than the oil forms, then those pockets run dry eventually and we have to look for new pockets, at greater depths. It appears that this is what actually happens, that is, we pump oil faster than it can be formed.

(There's a neat explanation the abiologic oil formation fans use for the isotope discrepancy. The latest versions of the idea include deep rock dwelling bacteria involved in oil synthesis, to add in the biological isotope ratio we see. Sounds like epicycles to me, though...)
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Old 08-12-2011, 07:27 PM   #65
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No, there are fundamental minimum entropy expenditures to do a computation. Even in the wonder world of computers where I do my work, exponential growth simply cannot continue for more than a few hundred years at most.
Or as we say here, "Young man, in THIS house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!"
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Old 08-12-2011, 10:59 PM   #66
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I read a theory of oil somewhere that argued that it doesn't really come from decomposing Triassic veggies but is generated spontaneously from the rocks in the mantle. Not quite endless supply but close enough for internal combustion needs.
But every time they drill a deep hole into the Cambrian Shield they get nada.

Ha
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Old 08-13-2011, 01:48 AM   #67
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If there is always another year, and the efficiency of the device doubles every year, then an infinite output is exactly what you are implying.
The device does the same work every year, just as the sun continues to shine down on us. There's no infinity.
There is infinity, unless you define an amount of time during which the device operates. If it were just set up and left running, doing the same amount of work annually, without ever exhausting the two gallons of gasoline, and without an end to the time period, its cumulative output would be infinite. But the example is a red herring, because it is impossible. Efficiency cannot double annually forever.

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Anyhow, the point is that exponential growth is only a problem if our means to deal with it does not also grow exponentially. And if it concerns information and computation, the means probably does grow exponentially.
You can't eat information. You can't wear computation. You can't put a bunch of ones and zeroes over your head to keep out the rain. The necessities of life—food, clothing, shelter—are made up of material substances, and energy is required for their cultivation or extraction, processing and/or transportation. Quantities of both materials and energy are finite. The amount of arable land, fresh water and oil (or other fuels) on the planet are not, to the best of my knowledge, increasing at all, let alone growing exponentially.
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Old 08-13-2011, 10:39 AM   #68
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. Efficiency cannot double annually forever.
I agree, bit in general usage it might depend on how someone is defining a doubling in efficiency.

If you define it as cutting waste in half, then you can double it forever, but you hit diminishing returns very quickly. Going from 20% eff (80% waste) to 60% eff (40% waste) is a big improvement. A few steps later, you are going from 95% eff (5% waste) to 97.5% eff (2.5% waste). Not such a big deal in real terms.

In practical terms with the gasoline example, this means after a few cycles of halving the waste, you get a small amount of additional output from that gallon of gas for each doubling/halving. It doesn't mean much after a while, and you still need X gallons of gasoline to get a job done. It won't approach zero gallons of gas, but maybe 1/3X gallons if we go from 30% eff to near 100% eff.

But the technical measure of efficiency is Pout/Pin, and this cannot double forever. A double past 50% efficiency takes you into perpetual motion territory (more Pout than Pin).

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