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System could be useful for mission critical applications, such as combat robotics

Professor Peter Bentley of the University College of London and his colleague Christos Sakellariou aren't impressed with most everyday computers, which aren't very fault tolerant and can only multitask by flipping their cores between various sequential instruction streams in a program.

He describes in an interview with NewScientist, "Even when it feels like your computer is running all your software at the same time, it is just pretending to do that, flicking its attention very quickly between each program.  Nature isn't like that.  Its processes are distributed, decentralised and probabilistic. And they are fault tolerant, able to heal themselves. A computer should be able to do that."

So the pair set out to make a new hardware and a new operating system, capable of handling tasks differently from most current machines, which even if "parallel" deal with instructions sequentially.

The new machine has instruction set pairs that tell what to do when a certain set of data is encountered.  The instructions-data pairs are then sent to multiple "systems", which are chosen at random to produce results.  Each system has its own redundant stack of instructions, so if one gets corrupted, others can finish up the work.  And each system has its own memory and storage; so "crashes" due to memory/storage errors are eliminated.

Comments Prof. Bentley, "The pool of systems interact in parallel, and randomly, and the result of a computation simply emerges from those interactions."

The results will be presented at an April conference in Singapore. 

The team is currently working on coding the machine so that it can reprogram its own instructions to respond to changes in the environment.  That self-learning, combined with the redundant, pseudorandom nature of the system would make it quite a bit more similar to a human brain than a traditional computer.

Potential applications for such a system include military robotics, swarm robotics, and mission critical servers.  For example, if an unmanned aerial vehicle sustained damage or was hacked, it might be able to reprogram itself and escape errors thanks to the redundancy, allowing it to fly home.

The computer is somewhat similar to so-called "probabilistic" chip designs, which are being researched at other universities.

Source: New Scientist



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RE: Except
By dgingerich on 2/15/2013 4:18:29 PM , Rating: 2
Most crashes happen because software developers make things overly complicated instead of using the most simple method, thus increasing overhead and unintended consequences. They're taught to be this way in college. (I remember my English Comp 2 class and her "wallow in complexity" lesson. I was thinking "how absolutely stupid" the whole time, and dropped the class shortly afterward.) In fact, most of the problems with society can be traced to two sources: our mass media companies and our educational methods.

I don't watch TV, and I taught myself most of what I know about computers, math, and science, with the help of books, magazines, reputable internet sources, and forums. School was always of little use to me, and US TV has always been stupid and boring. So, I can see these things from the outside.


RE: Except
By UpSpin on 2/15/2013 5:24:00 PM , Rating: 4
Most crashes happen because software developers make their live too easy and don't think past their own program. Instead of checking the validity of inputs (user input, website parsing, ...), they just assume everything will be fine. Instead of including error handlers, they assume, that nothing will go wrong. Instead of a consistent coding style and good commenting, they are lazy, paste parts from other projects together, without thinking about it. Errors happen, but this does not have to cause a crash with a proper coding style.

The mentioned issues in this article are hardware related. Nothing which will be a problem for the majority of so called 'programmers'. Such hardware issues are relevant in scientific or embedded applications, in which the processor runs several years without any interruption.

I don't see any relation between how you learned hopefully proper coding, your opinion about school and TV, and this article. Just as you can watch poor TV channels you can read poor books, visit poor lectures, ..., but well, this has nothing to do with the article.


RE: Except
By augiem on 2/15/2013 6:07:43 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
US TV has always been stupid and boring


As opposed to? Over dramatic anime and wacky gameshows (Japan)? Women who are half silicone and half makeup by weight screaming at each other over some guy (Mexico)? Old rich men crashing cars and blowing things up (England)? US TV certainly does not have a monopoly on stupidity.


RE: Except
By dgingerich on 2/16/2013 11:06:37 AM , Rating: 4
As opposed to time travel adventures with some sense of a moral lesson behind them (British), old rich men crashing cars and blowing things up (British, that show is fun, stupid at times, yes, but massive fun, and the US version just plain sucks), and scifi space travel adventures with some sense of a moral lesson (Canadian).

US TV has cancelled some of the best shows they're ever had, like Firefly, or refused to follow up on many that were good and popular, like Star Trek. Yet they feed the selfish idiots with so called 'reality' shows, promoting selfishness, which is the seed, root, and trunk of all society's problems, and laziness, the ground in which such things grow. Or they push shows that openly belittle the smartest and most valuable traits people can have with shows like Big Bang Theory and King of the Nerds. Plus we have such "critically acclaimed" shows that demonstrate incredible levels of selfishness like Breaking Bad and Grey's Anatomy. The actively push the idea that each individual is the most important person in the world, which is so incredibly WRONG .

It's not so much a monopoly that US TV has on stupid shows, it the active development of stupidity and selfishness and active denial of morality, thoughtfulness, and hard work. There simply isn't anything on these days, or for the past several years, that has any redeeming value. This selfish attitude the media keeps pushing puts us all in conflict, playing wants of individuals at odds with each other and pushing the idea of taking away from someone else to give yourself more, instead of pushing the idea that by working together we can all move forward and advance a common good, making all of us far better off. What's worse is the public education system is actively teaching these same 'values', corrupting what responsible parents are trying to teach their kids.

We're all better off playing video games like Star Trek Online and World of Warcraft that promote working together to conquer common threats and think on a level of the common good.

OK, there are some shows on US cable channels, like Burn Notice, White Collar, and Mythbusters that have some redeeming value, but the major networks haven't had any redeeming value is decades.

Also, Japanese anime may be overdramatic at times, but they include important life lessons that the people of the US need to learn that simply aren't taught here, things that have taught me how to be much more effective as a person and satisfied with my life. They teach things that are integral to the Japanese culture, like "do your best" and "it can't be helped" and "make your enemies into your friends" that US children simply don't learn. Our country suffers for that lack.

I thank God that there are still some people in this country that know these things and teach their kids these things, but they are being overwhelmed by people who believe they have to take away from others to make themselves comfortable and the government has to meet their needs instead of actually WORKING FOR IT, all because of the media and educational indoctrination.


RE: Except
By conquistadorst on 2/18/2013 9:40:02 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, it's entirely the software developers wanting to make things overly complicated. No, no, the users and the stake holders never want anything complicated. They always want simple. The entire universe only gives us simple problems. It's all of these pesky developers' faults for giving them complex solutions to their simple problems.

OR JUST MAYBE, the world has moved beyond solving simple problems to solving complex ones because requirements demand it. Nooooo, that can't be it! I'm sorry for the sarcasm but you just come off as someone with limited exposure and/or experience. Things do get over-engineered for sure but you're painting the world a little simpler than it actually is.


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