What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby jaap » Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:10 am UTC

Xenomortis wrote:
dudiobugtron wrote:
PM 2Ring wrote:As Xenomortis said, "if you think you've all the reals, I have Cantor's diagonal argument as backup".

Any program that purportedly generates all the reals has to do so in some sequence, i.e., it creates a list of reals. And any list of reals is susceptible to Cantor diagonalization.


Any countably infinite list of reals is susceptible to Cantor diagonalisation. An uncountably infinite list containing all of the reals wouldn't be, though. If the program only does countably infinite steps, then sure it won't generate all of the reals. However, it may be able to generate all of the reals after doing O(|R|) steps.


How do you propose to get an uncountable list?
We are talking about a computer; it calculates things step by step. The term "uncountable" doesn't fit in anywhere.


All you need is some parallel processing. Uncountably infinitely many processes running in parallel, that is. :D

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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby elasto » Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:50 pm UTC

How about this as an algorithm to create all the reals:

Create ten threads:
- The first thread creates a list of reals starting 0.1...
- The second thread creates a list of reals starting 0.2...
- ...
- The tenth thread creates a list of reals starting 0.0...
Then combine the results.

Each thread, to create its complete list, itself creates ten subthreads, recursively forever. But, since it's infinitely fast, it can finish all the threads and return the results!

To create all the reals >1 merely take the previous lists and multiply them by any power of ten you choose! And to create the negative reals merely take all previous reals and multiply by minus 1!

(Course, performing the algorithm requires an uncountably infinite amount of RAM. Hope the manufacturers remembered to include that! ^_^)

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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby Xenomortis » Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:57 pm UTC

At what point in your calculation is the following number created: 1/3
Or how about pi - 3?

Your algorithm will create every terminating decimal, but when does it create a non-terminating one?
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby lorb » Wed Oct 31, 2012 2:41 pm UTC

elasto wrote:How about this as an algorithm to create all the reals:

Create ten threads:
- The first thread creates a list of reals starting 0.1...
- The second thread creates a list of reals starting 0.2...
- ...
- The tenth thread creates a list of reals starting 0.0...
Then combine the results.


How?
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby dudiobugtron » Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:04 pm UTC

phlip wrote:You just need to throw out all your ideas of iterative programming, and use a different model where it's even meaningful to ask what happens if the program has to run for uncountably-many steps.

Perhaps, but I wonder if you can just do some countably infinite thing countably infinite times, and then do that countably infinite times etc... until you eventually (well, instantaneously in this case) build up something that is uncountably infinite. For example, could you (through an infinite sequence of infinite sequences of steps) construct the powerset of Z+? I would have thought that the reason we can't construct this normally is because there are infinite subsets of Z+ which would take an infinite amount of time to construct. But are those infinities an issue for this computer?
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby Xenomortis » Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:16 pm UTC

Here's a consideration.
If you assume the Axiom of Choice, a countable union of countable sets is countable.
If you don't assume it, you don't know the cardinality of such a set.
So you can talk about doing something a countable number of times, but you don't solve anything.

As for the power set of N.
It is equivalent to the set of all functions from N to a two element set.

So, let's consider the set {0,1}.
We can consider a function from N to {0,1} to be represented by a binary string where each digit corresponds to the output of that digit's position.
i.e. the string 101 would correspond to the function that maps 1 to 1, 2 to 0, 3 to 1 and everything else to 0 (0 is not an element of N in this discourse, but it doesn't matter).

This thread has a method of building bit-strings
viewtopic.php?f=17&t=95774

At each stage, it can generate a finite number of finite bit-strings.
Yet it doesn't ever build an infinite string (and these exist) and so doesn't generate every bit-string.
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby elasto » Wed Oct 31, 2012 11:34 pm UTC

At what point in your calculation is the following number created: 1/3

I thought it was pretty trivial to create that number assuming an infinitely fast computer:

Start at t=0 with "0."
at t=0.5 add a "3"
at t=0.75 add another "3"
at t=0.875 add another "3"
Keep halving the interval and adding another "3"

You ask at what point is the string representing 1/3 created - I say at exactly t=1

lorb wrote:
elasto wrote:How about this as an algorithm to create all the reals:

Create ten threads:
- The first thread creates a list of reals starting 0.1...
- The second thread creates a list of reals starting 0.2...
- ...
- The tenth thread creates a list of reals starting 0.0...
Then combine the results.


How?

What do you mean how? How the f*ck have we built an infinitely fast computer anyhow? :p

Have the timing of each thread be such that they all finish by t=1 as per the above worked example. Then simply combine them all together at any point after t=1 using the same sort of recursive process - with all those infinite parallel threads finishing at, say, t=2.

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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby EvanED » Wed Oct 31, 2012 11:46 pm UTC

dudiobugtron wrote:Perhaps, but I wonder if you can just do some countably infinite thing countably infinite times, and then do that countably infinite times etc...

I'm not 100% sure I get what you're going after, but I think that "do countably infinite thing infinite times" needs to appear an uncountable number of times within that "etc.", otherwise you just have aleph_0 * aleph_0 = aleph_0 (or maybe aleph_0^3 = aleph_0.)

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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby dudiobugtron » Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:14 am UTC

Xenomortis wrote:Here's a consideration.
If you assume the Axiom of Choice, a countable union of countable sets is countable.
If you don't assume it, you don't know the cardinality of such a set.
So you can talk about doing something a countable number of times, but you don't solve anything.


Thanks Xenomortis and EvanED. Yes that does answer my question about infinite lots of infinity exactly. It's kind of like how the finite union of finite sets is finite; you'd need an infinite union of finite sets to get an infinite set.
I guess I'll have to wait until we can get an uncountably infinite amount of parallel processors then, as jaap suggests.

-----

Going back to my question about random numbers, though, consider the following thought experiment:

Imagine we have a computer with infinite RAM, and the ability to generate sufficiently random real numbers between 0 and 1. By sufficiently random, I mean that every real number between 0 and 1 has a possibility of being generated. (I won't worry about how it generates this random number, but for the sake of argument assume it is possible!)

Now, what if we tell the computer to do this (excuse the horrible code):

Code: Select all

10 Generate a random number
20 goto 10


And just set it going. Is there a real number between 0 and 1 that wouldn't be generated by this process?

PS: I think it only needs countably infinite RAM to hold any particular real number in RAM, is that true?
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby phlip » Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:28 am UTC

dudiobugtron wrote:And just set it going. Is there a real number between 0 and 1 that wouldn't be generated by this process?

It depends on how your "infinite computer" is defined. Most definitions, it's only going to generate a countable number of random numbers, so it's almost certain to not generate any particular real number you care to name.

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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby EvanED » Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:34 am UTC

dudiobugtron wrote:I guess I'll have to wait until we can get an uncountably infinite amount of parallel processors then, as jaap suggests.

He he. The BlueGene/ℵ1. I want one.

Of course, as soon as you get the BlueGene/ℵ1 they'll announce the BlueGene/ℵ2 and yours will be obsolete...

Going back to my question about random numbers, though, consider the following thought experiment:

Imagine we have a computer with infinite RAM, and the ability to generate sufficiently random real numbers between 0 and 1. By sufficiently random, I mean that every real number between 0 and 1 has a possibility of being generated. (I won't worry about how it generates this random number, but for the sake of argument assume it is possible!)

Now, what if we tell the computer to do this (excuse the horrible code):

Code: Select all

10 Generate a random number
20 goto 10


And just set it going. Is there a real number between 0 and 1 that wouldn't be generated by this process?

If you only have a processor that runs, uh, countably fast (whatever that means), or a countable number of such processors, then yes; even at the end of time (whatever that means) they'll still have only generated a countable number of numbers.

(To make that a little more precise, what I mean by "countably fast" is that in any finite amount of time, it only can run a countable number of those steps. What I mean by "at the end of time" is if the number of seconds is countable.)

PS: I think it only needs countably infinite RAM to hold any particular real number in RAM, is that true?

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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby Kick » Thu Nov 01, 2012 2:21 am UTC

Everything else I normally do, but with F@H running in the background all the time.
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby PM 2Ring » Thu Nov 01, 2012 4:16 am UTC

jaap wrote:All you need is some parallel processing. Uncountably infinitely many processes running in parallel, that is. :D

With uncountably infinite RAM, of course.
How do you address that sort of shit? I guess you could use Dedekind cuts or Cauchy sequences... OTOH, it's not going to be easy to get to the majority of RAM words, since they have uncomputable addresses. And the same applies to addressing the processors themselves.

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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby lorb » Thu Nov 01, 2012 12:56 pm UTC

elasto wrote:
lorb wrote:
elasto wrote:Create ten threads:
- The first thread creates a list of reals starting 0.1...
- The second thread creates a list of reals starting 0.2...
- ...
- The tenth thread creates a list of reals starting 0.0...
Then combine the results.


How?

What do you mean how? How the f*ck have we built an infinitely fast computer anyhow? :p

Have the timing of each thread be such that they all finish by t=1 as per the above worked example. Then simply combine them all together at any point after t=1 using the same sort of recursive process - with all those infinite parallel threads finishing at, say, t=2.


Even if we suppose that the first thread actually succeeds in creating a _list_ of all reals starting with 0.1 it's no trivial task to combine it with a list of all reals starting with 0.2. You can't (trivially) append something at the end of an infinite list. Or maybe you can give an algorithm that does what you propose? So that we can see what the "lists" you are talking about actually look like. Or maybe just tell me: what are the first 3 reals on the list that is the endresult?
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby Xenomortis » Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:47 pm UTC

On the upside, if you did manage it, you've just well-ordered the reals!
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby dudiobugtron » Thu Nov 01, 2012 9:09 pm UTC

Actually you can trivially append something at the end of an infinite list. For example, you could use a semi-colon after the '...'.

I think it's the idea of using '...' to mean 'and the rest of the reals' which is a bit spurious.

(PS: eg, if I want to write a 'list' which first contains all of the even positive integers, then all of the odd ones, I might write it:
2, 4, 6, 8, ... ; 1, 3, 5, 7, ...
)
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby Xenomortis » Thu Nov 01, 2012 10:31 pm UTC

That's a question of notation, but it leaves the question of computation unanswered.
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby dudiobugtron » Thu Nov 01, 2012 11:50 pm UTC

Xenomortis wrote:That's a question of notation, but it leaves the question of computation unanswered.

I was imagining something like this:
----
If there exists an n in {n | we haven't yet generated the nth real number starting with 0.1...}, then choose the lowest such n.
Generate the nth real number starting with 0.1 .
Repeat.

Otherwise, if there exists an n in {n | we haven't yet generated the nth real number starting with 0.2...}, then choose the lowest such n.
Generate the nth real number starting with 0.2 .
etc....
-----

Obviously this won't generate all the of the real numbers, since they are not countable (nor, as you said, well-ordered). But my point was that their unaccountability was the problem, not the impossibility of computing something after you've already computed infinite other things.


________________________________
---------------------------------------------

As a separate point, I wonder if we can utilise the hypernaturals (since |*N| = |R| ) to visualise some sort of uncountably infinite computer* which maintains a pseudo-iterative structure. Could we construct some analogue of 'steps' or algorithms which work well with the transfer principle?

*(EDIT: I was tempted to call this a 'hypercomputer', but then discovered that this term is already used to discuss the exact sort of thing we're wondering about already: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypercomputation !
See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real_computation and the 'BSS' machine.)
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby PM 2Ring » Fri Nov 02, 2012 4:38 am UTC

Newcomers to this thread may not be aware that it inspired a "spinoff" thread a couple of years ago: "The set of all computable reals & diagonalization" aka "Properties and models of infinitely fast computation"
http://forums.xkcd.com/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=58941
I vaguely remember another good thread discussing transfinite computation; but maybe I'm just imagining things. :)

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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby jareds » Fri Nov 02, 2012 7:52 am UTC

Just to summarize a bit of information from that spin-off, we spent a lot of time discussing a well-defined model of transfinite computing that was not really uncountable computing. (The model allowed for running any transfinite ordinal number of steps, but it would provably either halt or get into a repeating loop within a countable number of steps. If this doesn't make sense, imagine running a Zeno machine to completion an infinite number of times in succession. You could number the steps with ordinals less than ω2, which is still countable. This model extended on that.)

I think one of the big problems one would have with a model of computation that operates in uncountable realms is that traditional models of computation use programs that can be represented as finite strings, so the number of programs is countably infinite. Thus, for example, almost all the reals will be uncomputable, if "computable real" means "there exists a program that computes that real (and only that real) on empty input", and uncountably infinite storage or speed don't help: you need uncountably many programs.

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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby dudiobugtron » Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:15 am UTC

Thanks! That thread made pretty interesting reading. Although a lot of the terminology was a bit advanced for me, it did give me a pretty good idea of the discussion and thought that has already gone into the topic.

I'm still having trouble convincing myself that you can't construct all of the reals computationally on this infinite computer, when it's so easy to construct them mathematically. I guess I'll have to be content with believing that you can't, though.
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby WanderingLinguist » Wed Nov 07, 2012 11:32 pm UTC

dudiobugtron wrote:...when it's so easy to construct them mathematically.

Is it, though? All of them, I mean.

If you had an infinitely fast immortal person, could that person construct all the reals? What algorithm could you use (mathematically) that would cover all the reals given an infinite amount of time?

I don't think it's so easy to construct them mathematically as you think it is...

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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby dudiobugtron » Thu Nov 08, 2012 1:13 am UTC

What algorithm could you use (mathematically) that would cover all the reals given an infinite amount of time?

An uncountably infinite amount of time?

As it happens, though, I was using the word 'construct' in a different sense. Here are some ways you can construct the reals mathematically:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructi ... al_numbers
I think my use of the word 'construct' in this sense is valid. If you like, however, replace my earlier sentence with this one:
I'm still having trouble convincing myself that you can't generate all of the reals algorithmically on this infinite computer, when it's so easy to define them theoretically.


PS: Of course, I only think it is easy because people much smarter than myself have shown us how to do it....
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby Xenomortis » Thu Nov 08, 2012 10:11 am UTC

WanderingLinguist wrote:If you had an infinitely fast immortal person, could that person construct all the reals? What algorithm could you use (mathematically) that would cover all the reals given an infinite amount of time?

I don't think it's so easy to construct them mathematically as you think it is...


"Construction" has a different meaning in a mathematical context and isn't relevant here.
However, the set R = {r⊂Q | r defines (or is) a Dedekind cut of Q} is well defined and is bounded by P(Q). This set exists and we can talk about it.
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby WanderingLinguist » Thu Nov 08, 2012 11:15 am UTC

Ah, I got it now. Yay, terminology.

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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby bad_robot » Tue Nov 13, 2012 11:44 pm UTC

An infinitely fast computer would do wonders for formal verification of software. You could just enumerate the entire state space of most real programs (given that the space is bounded of course but that is usually the case in real software) and look for deviations from the specification. Then software development will actually deserve to be called engineering.

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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby MHD » Tue Dec 18, 2012 11:47 pm UTC

EvanED wrote:be aware that when most people say "regular expression" they really mean "something that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike a regular expression"

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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby Xanthir » Wed Dec 19, 2012 12:05 am UTC

Already discussed earlier in the thread. You probably want to be careful with Solomonoff induction, because it arguably creates every possible universe, including hellscapes filled with unimaginable numbers of suffering sentient minds. If you believe that simulated sentience is still sentience (which you should), then that's probably grossly unethical.
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby Tac-Tics » Thu Jan 03, 2013 11:10 pm UTC

I would use it to prove that it isn't infinitely fast.

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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby dudiobugtron » Fri Jan 04, 2013 9:13 pm UTC

Tac-Tics wrote:I would use it to prove that it isn't infinitely fast.

How?
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby Tac-Tics » Fri Jan 04, 2013 9:48 pm UTC

dudiobugtron wrote:
Tac-Tics wrote:I would use it to prove that it isn't infinitely fast.

How?


There are lots of ways to create paradoxes. If there are components moving infinitely fast inside the computer, you can show relativity is violated. You can also use it to solve the halting problem.

In either of those cases, you end up with a contradiction. And by principle of explosion, I can prove the computer isn't infinitely fast.

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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby Yakk » Fri Jan 04, 2013 10:17 pm UTC

Except, not.

Contradicting Relativity is not a paradox. It is unexpected.

Solving the halting problem on a weaker class of computers (like finite speed computers) is not a paradox.

There are many models of infinitely fast computers that are perfectly sound, mathematically.
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby Xanthir » Fri Jan 04, 2013 10:18 pm UTC

Showing a relativity violation isn't contradictory. It means relativity is wrong, but that's how science normally works.

Showing that you can solve the halting problem isn't contradictory. The halting problem applies to Turing Machines, which an infinitely fast computer is not. It's definitely possible for an infinitely fast machine (for several definitions of "infinitely fast" to solve the halting problem for TMs, though there is another halting problem for the more powerful machines that it can't solve.

Even if you could derive a contradiction, this is physical reality, not logic. That just shows that physical reality is inconsistent, or more likely, that your model of physical reality is inconsistent, and you need to get a better one. It doesn't go back and undo one of the premises to maintain validity.
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby Tac-Tics » Fri Jan 04, 2013 10:42 pm UTC

Even if you could derive a contradiction, this is physical reality, not logic. That just shows that physical reality is inconsistent, or more likely, that your model of physical reality is inconsistent, and you need to get a better one. It doesn't go back and undo one of the premises to maintain validity.


These kinds of arguments are why philosophers go unemployed. If you are so uncertain of your own foundations that you can't take modern relativity as an axiom, you won't find the foothold to make any useful statements at all. Any post could simply be retorted with "well, maybe everything we know is wrong."

Science didn't get to where it is today through continuous self-doubt. The majority of bad theories weren't totally invalid. Most had the right idea, but the wrong formula, or it was something that worked in similar situations, but didn't work here, or it was mostly right, but needed some twerking.

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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby Xanthir » Fri Jan 04, 2013 10:55 pm UTC

Uh, what? Modern relativity almost certainly *is* wrong, which is why quantum gravity is hard. Science *is* about constant self-doubt, because we've been wrong about everything, and likely will never stop being wrong. Of course, our degree of wrongness goes down over time, but still, we're always wrong, about everything, and always will be. That's what science is about. There are no axioms. Anything might be proven wrong.

Your post was just wrong. You can't use an infinite computer to prove infinite computers can't exist. That's just silly. You could try and use a *theoretical* computer to do so, because then you're working in logic where you can assume an impossible thing, but if an infinitely fast computer actually exists, it actually exists.
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Tue Jan 08, 2013 3:53 pm UTC

What you could probably do is have it spit out a sufficiently compelling compelling argument that people would accept as proof that it isn't infinitely fast. Or better yet, that the computer doesn't exist at all and you've never heard this argument.

For added sophistic fun: Consider that there is no way to know your cat isn't such a computer.
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby madaco » Wed Jan 09, 2013 3:57 am UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:What you could probably do is have it spit out a sufficiently compelling compelling argument that people would accept as proof that it isn't infinitely fast. Or better yet, that the computer doesn't exist at all and you've never heard this argument.

For added sophistic fun: Consider that there is no way to know your cat isn't such a computer.


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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby Xenomortis » Wed Jan 09, 2013 9:20 am UTC

Then you should be sad, because you don't have something that may be an infinitely fast computer in disguise.
I know I am. :(
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mr-mitch
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby mr-mitch » Wed Jan 09, 2013 10:13 am UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:What you could probably do is have it spit out a sufficiently compelling compelling argument that people would accept as proof that it isn't infinitely fast. Or better yet, that the computer doesn't exist at all and you've never heard this argument.

For added sophistic fun: Consider that there is no way to know your cat isn't such a computer.


But cats halt and their output is countable?

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Quizatzhaderac
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Re: What would you do with an infinitely fast computer?

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Wed Jan 09, 2013 10:08 pm UTC

Hmmm.... Well let's split cats into two categories.
1) The regular kind
2) The infinite computer kind, that convinces people that is doesn't exist.

We can then split people into two categorize or three sub categories.
  1. People who believe they have cats
  2. People who don't believe they have cats
    1. Because they don't actually have a cat.
    2. Because they have an infinite cat that convinced them they don't have a cat.
So if you don't believe you have a cat, that's actually evidence that you have an infinite cat.
The thing about recursion problems is that they tend to contain other recursion problems.


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