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Old 22nd March 2009, 10:48 PM   #1 (permalink)
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How to keep an intelligent computer useful.

In Known Space the intelligent computer (i.e. self aware) has proven to be of limited usefulness. For unspecified reasons they eventually shut themselves down, go catatonic.

Speculation is that they simply run out of exterior stimulus, things that will keep them interested in the 'real' world.

However, if one were to bundle an intelligent computer into a Bussard Ramjet and get it to a high percentage of light-speed, might the pace of the exterior universe be enough to keep the intelligence interested? It is commonly asserted that time for anything travelling at or near light speed slows down. However, it's as easy to say that for anyone travelling at light speed, the rest of the universe speeds up.

In that case might exterior stimuli be coming fast enough to keep the computer interested in the 'real' world. If so, what would you actually want the device to accomplish (or, back to my favourite, is it watching for indications of the Pak fleet coming from galactic center?)?

Remember that the Thrint FTL drive required the ship to approach a significant percentage of light speed before 'jumping'. Let the intelligence chew that over for awhile. If it can re-invent that drive can it be used as a way to keep the relative time streams where it needs them? That is, maintaining speeds approaching 'c' but by jumping it can cover more ground than the Bussard Ramjet will allow. A great sentry and research tool for humanity!
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Old 23rd March 2009, 12:09 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: How to keep an intelligent computer useful.

The interior of a space craft is an essentially information-poor environment relative to (say) a point on the surface of a planet. Certainly you could collect data from the slowed down universe (not speeded up) around, but not more than you could get from a stationary observation post with the same sensors, just different.
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Old 23rd March 2009, 02:38 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: How to keep an intelligent computer useful.

The problem for an intelligent computer might be that the frequency of 'quality' information coming into it is so spread out that after a while the 'real' world cannot hold its' interest. The computer becomes bored and eventually shuts itself off, or its' intelligence 'transforms' in some unexplained manner.

By "speeding up" the outside world relative to it, the amount of "Thank you, come again" messages, i.e. low quality information, bombarding the computer will increase (and will continue to be ignored).

However the frequency of "Call an ambulance" messages, i.e. information with the same number of characters but of far higher "quality" will come more frequently.

Give the computer a good set of sensors and a mission or science project and it may just stay interested long enough to give you some results
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