Jed's Theories/Dreams

This page contains a variety of my thoughts that might be chacterized as theories and/or dreams. They are in no particular order. Here is a link back to my professional page that amounts to a main entry point.
  1. I think I can begin to see the future of the information economy in facilities like the Web. In 1995 I published a paper related to the Web and MBone - WWW Media Distribution via Hopwise Reliable Multicast. This paper is somewhat narrowly technical, but it illustrates some of the potential that I see in these areas. This economy is starting to get charged up now with the advertising capabilities of the Web. I see the Web developing commercially in several stages:
    1. Advertising - already well launched, see, for example, my Computer and Communication Pages, now successfully producing advertising revenue since 1995.
    2. Financial transactions - this technology is rapidly becoming available from projects like Commerce Net.
    3. Direct information sales - glimpses of what this will be like can be viewed in the variety of online magazines, newspagers, journals, etc. already beginning to show up on the Web.

    Tremendous progress has been made in the above areas during the late 1990s and 2000s. Even the dotcom bust really didn't show down the progress in this area. It may culminate when we have immersive communication (video+) between essentially any two points on Earth.

  2. I designed a switching mechanism that can deal with the torrent of data at the core of today's and tomorrow's Internet by an inovative application of existing crossbar switching technology. This mechanism, which I call "just in time switching", schedules the systematic throwing of the crossbar switches in advance of arriving "frames" of data. It is a little like railroad switching. It avoids the tight and therefore difficult time considerations of dealing with cell or frame headers before making a switching decision by scheduling such switching in advance. It is not able to deal with real time traffic change requirements, but is much better able to handle "virtual circuit conditioning" of the sort that ATM technology allows in the fact of the very large sorts of data flows that are possible with dense wave division multiplexing.

  3. I have developed a design for a "Data Flow" machine. I call it a "functile" computer and have given it the name "IMPACT" - Integrated Machine for Processing Asynchronous Cellular Transactions. It is based on programmable cells that interact in a data flow way, that is they wait for their needed input and for needed output buffers before firing. I believe this structure provides a much more natural architecture for parallel programs. The parallelism in such a machine automatically includes both pipelining and traditional parallelism. I have simulated this "computer" with an example set of "personalities" (opcodes), and have run a variety of simple programs on the simulation. My simulations have demonstrated that a reasonably selected version of this architecture (2D, size within constraints of cost and dynamic failure, etc.) will run most usefully parallel algorithms on the order of a million times faster than they can be run on the hottest sequential processor of the day. This technology is waiting for a slowdown in the "killer" micro onslaught. Anyone interested in this area is encouraged to contact me. This technology is very straight forward, but conceptually not obvious. I've put a PDF file on this Web site that describes the main points of this technology. Here is that hard copy document from 1985. This technology that benefits by the recent moves to asychronous logic (mostly to preserve power) as it needs asychronous logic to work effectively. In the document you can see how the cells exchange data (each waits in parallel for each direction until it has data to deliver and the buffer in that direction is empty). You can also see a loading mechanism, a link loading algorithm, a mechanism for bypassing failed cells (fault tolerance), and some sample simulation output.

  4. I believe, though this is very speculative, that it is not all that difficult to construct an artificial brain. I have a model for one that I believe can eventually think better than human brains. This model is very unlike computers or neural networks. It is a little like the preceptron models of the 1960s, but it is uses quantum mechanical uncertainty in a critical way. I have also done some simple simulation studies of this model where I demonstrated operant and classical conditioning. However, this work (unlike the functile computer work above) was done long enough ago that the software is now useless and would have to be rewritten to get it going again. In my opinion, many of the recent developments in the theory of consciousness reinforce the concepts behind this model of the brain. The basic idea of this model is that quantum mechanical randomness (true randomness) at a microscopic level in the brain is manefest at a macroscopic level as the driving force behind "discovery." That randomness generates the possibilities that the brain selects from according to its various pleasures and pains. I believe the difficulty people are having of imagining how brains along these lines work is the same reason people have difficulty imagining how biological evolution works. The process demands much larger numbers (in this case numerical neurons selecting from random processes) that people are used to dealing with.

  5. I also believe (again fairly speculatively) that animals (e.g. humans) can be "reengineered" so that they will live essentially forever. This belief is founded mostly on the simple observations that:

    1. Miotic animals (bacteria) can reproduce forever (i.e. they don't "age"),
    2. Mitosis "resets" the aging "clock", and
    3. Mitotic animals have varying lifespans.

    If aging was some sort of free radical deterioration of genetic or other cell structures, it would be basically the same aging process regardless of species. This is not so. Why do dogs age and die sooner than humans who in turn die sooner than some tortises? It is because a clock in the dogs body that had said "switch from infant to juvenile hemoglobin" or "new teeth" or "become sexually active" or ... ran out of things to do and basically said "time to die." This dying mechanism is very helpful from an evolutionary viewpoint, but for humans who are largely evolving socially, it is counterproductive. We needn't put up with it any more. While there are all sorts of ways people try to ease the pain of aging and death, very few people really want to get old and die. We needn't continue doing it. A concerted research effort will enable us to loop or essentially stop that aging clock. We may well age and die by some other means, but it will be a much longer and different process.

    This sort of thinking has recently begun to be referred to as Engineered Negligible Senescence and popularized by people like Aubrey de Grey. This may seem like just so much "fountain of youth" hooplah, but I believe it is not. It is not likely to allow people to live "forever", since (even besides accidents and such) there are still aspects of people that do indeed "wear" out (the eyes lenses, some joints, etc.). While these could also be "regrown" by resetting the clock far enough, that might well reset the brain as well - creating essentially a new person (e.g. a clone). Very much as children remember little of their very young years (because their brains are changing and growing so), a person reset to such an age would become essentially a new person. Still, many (including me) believe that human life can be greatly extended and made much healthier by holding the "clock" in check.

  6. I believe Mathematics should be put on a sound logical basis by having computers maintain a database of proven theorems and verify new theorems (note, I don't suggest that computers prove the theorms - that is for the brains). Such a system would eliminate situations like the current ambiguity over the proof of Fermat's "last theorem." It would also provide more confidence for very complex proofs (e.g. like that for the four color problem) that can only be verified by very few people and/or with the aid of computers.

  7. I've been embarrassed for many years by the pathetic "security/integrity" properties of commercial computer systems. I believe these problems result largely from the lack of Principle Of Least Privilege (recently called Principle Of Least Authority) protection between domains. Many people (noteably Butler Lampson) believe that such protection is inherently difficult to achieve as somebody must painstakingly think out and confugure access control for all actors in a system. This view is false as simply looking at object oriented programming shows. The local decisions are very easy to make by programmers as they know exactly what they are trying to accomplich and what parameters are needed. By using this "capability" model of computing I believe we can achieve highly secure and high integrity computing systems. One aspect of "capability" computing that many people fear is the apparent "loss of control" with such systems in that once a reference to an object has been delegated to one subject, that subject can delegate it to another. This free delegation, while so important to POLA computing, strikes many people as too lose as it goes beyond what is often done with people - where we may want to limit access or even perhaps change access in the future.

    I recently co-authored a paper that addresses this topic, Horton. I believe this approach can provide the POLA value of capabilities while at the same time providing the logging, auditing, and administrative management available in Access List Control based systems. I hope to soon see such a mechanism available on the Web (e.g. WebKeys) where it is vital to solve problems like the mash-up problem and generally deal with the horrific mess that is access control on the Web today.

I take care in monitoring how solid my understanding is in any area. It is important to me to know when my understanding is very loose (e.g. the brain model or aging theory noted above), very solid (e.g. the Cellular Tiled computer which I have simulated), and strictly logical (e.g. when I have a proof in some Mathematical domain or when I know something will work on a computer).