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 Harnessing the Computational Power of Autism

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Aug 05, 2001
 Comments:
Like Dustin Hoffman in the film "Tootsie", there is more to the autistic than meets the eye. A casual onlooker perhaps sees only a detached child or adult with a disconnect from human contact and a warped view of reality; a systems administrator, perhaps, or maybe a more than usually irascible cake decorator. However, like Dustin Hoffman in the film "Marathon Man", this tortured exterior conceals hidden depths.

A small percentage of sufferers from autism have as a side-effect of the brain abnormality which renders them unable to interpret normal human communication, a way of representing the world which enables them to recognise patterns almost instantly. Sadly, most of these "savants" are only able to do more or less completely useless things like playing the piano or drawing cars. However, the interesting (like Dustin Hoffman in the film "Kramer vs. Kramer") kind of savant can count matches, calculate actuarial tables for airline crashes and perform prodigious tasks of mathematical expertise.

Can we, as a society, afford to leave this powerful computational resource being used for trivial purposes, like Dustin Hoffman in the film "Midnight Cowboy"? I think not. The following report, annotated by Adequacy.org summarises leaked US Government documents on the feasibility of replacing ludicrously expensive supercomputing facilities with comparatively cheap savants.

Read on also for hints at a spine-chilling future for humanity which we are not at liberty to fully disclose ...

elitism

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1. Advanced 3D rendering

Modern Hollywood films have gone beyond the point at which the hokey special effects of yesteryear are enough to thrill audiences. These days, old-fashioned acting is out and whizz-bang computer graphics are in. However, computer graphics don't come cheap, and Moore's Law ain't going to last for ever. It's time to go non-linear, and look for a method for rapidly solving complex numerical manipulations which doesn't rely on stuffing transistors onto silicon at unfeasible rates.

A bit of simple math shows the kind of performance uplift we're talking about. The servers which produced animated laugh-fest Shrek were capable of roughly ten gigaflops. A gigaflop is a billion floating point operations per second. 'RH', the autistic savant featured in this article by Paul Macaruso and Scott Sokol, could give the cube root of a six digit number in five seconds, a calculation speed roughly equivalent to 50 megaflops. So, as we know that the numerical tasks involved are massively parallelisable, it would take only 200 savants working together to duplicate the power needed to produce Shrek. By extension, given that autism affects 0.5% of the population and 10% of autistic people are savants, the 280 million people in the USA include a latent computational resource capable of 700 times the processing power available to George Lucas.

2. Soviet-style economic planning

Socialism is all the rage these days, with the European Union taking over in countries like Germany, France and the United Kingdom. We at adequacy.org aren't sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing; we've heard that some people value individual freedom, but others prefer to be told what to think. We try to avoid complicated political issues like this, except during election time. But one thing we do know is that Soviet-style economic planning has gathered itself a pretty bad reputation. The trouble is, it's just not feasibleto properly plan the inputs and outputs of a large, complex economy. Which pretty much sucks. Like we say, we're politically ambiguous about the forthcoming global takeover of European socialism. But if the economy went down the tubes, that would be bad news for us. Most of us are pretty slack, marginal workers at the best of times - in a socialist-induced recession, we'd be toast.

Thank God for autism. Sure, the Soviet economy fell to pieces because of the impossibility of planning. But with a computational resource capable of processing teraflops of instructions through their huge, connection-rich brains, they'll probably even be able to find a useful social role for the likes of me. Socialism and autism -- they shouldn't work together but they do!

3. Numerical Cryptanalysis

RC5 public key encryption has become the de facto standard for security obsessives, paranoiacs, privacy bores and all manner of other people who are either doing something they shouldn't or wasting all of our time by pretending to be doing something they shouldn't. As a security standard it is currently the state of the art, believed to be safe from everything except government snooping agencies, Echelon, random geeks on distributed.net and everyone else.

However, the community of people with something to hide appear to have ignored a significant threat to their illusory privacy; autistic savants.

When kept in a secure, nurturing environment, such as that provided by Tom Cruise in the film "Risky Business", a medium-sized savant ought to be able to perform discrete factorisations of up to 28 bits of RC5 key per hour. This would suggest that, even for time-sensitive communications, keylengths of fewer than 288 bits are not safe from the autistic community [editor's note, by jsm](the autistic community?). Clearly, it might be possible to safeguard our secrets by using our own non-cracker, "white hat" autistic savants, but this only risks starting an arms race which decent society can only lose. Recent research seems to show that autism is linked to secretin, a protein secreted in the stomach. Over time, it is likely that this knowledge will lead to a genetically engineered super-race of autistic savants, against which the West, with its higher ethical standards and more stringent regulatory standards can never hope to compete.

Clearly this situation cannot be allowed to persist. Not only does this present a threat to most currently available forms of secure communication, it also cannot be ruled out that the calculating ability of the savants is already being put to use by the autistic themselves. When one stops to think, it is hard to avoid noticing the resemblance between the disjointed sentence fragments of autistic communication, and the garbled snatches characteristic of handshake signals between parties using high-end elliptic curve cryptography. The autists can communicate perfectly easily, they just don't feel like talking to us! The autistic are the master race here to replace us, and we are living on borrowed time! I demand an immediate federally funded research program into this important issue.

       
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Methinks you're a bit late (2.00 / 2) (#10)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Aug 5th, 2001 at 09:58:49 AM PST
When digital computers were first created, a autistic savant could have wiped the floor with them. Had someone thought of this at that time, maybe the history of computing would have changed dramatically. However, by trying this now, you'd be too late. You can purchase a computer capable of 1000 MFLOPS or more for less than $1k. Cluster them together a la Beowulf and you have a cheap supercomputer. Speaking of supercomputers, we could be seeing in less than 10 years the advent of quantum computing which is so ridiculously fast it would smack Dustin Hoffman's character in Rain Main back to normalcy.

The point is that computers are fast and are getting faster and Autistics would be incapable of keeping up with the pace of technology right now.


What about cryptography ? (none / 0) (#12)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Aug 5th, 2001 at 12:28:00 PM PST
Bill Gates said that the big breakthrough will come when someone figures out a way of factoring large prime numbers.

Perhaps the Autistic mind might be good at this ?

I can see a future for this concept within the NSA.


Ummm... (3.00 / 2) (#13)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Aug 5th, 2001 at 12:29:10 PM PST
You do realize that you can't factor a prime number, right?


Not true... (3.00 / 2) (#14)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Aug 5th, 2001 at 02:06:35 PM PST
You do realize that you can't factor a prime number, right?

That is absolute nonsense, spoken by someone who doesn't understand number theory. The elementary definition of a prime number as "a number that has no factors" is woefully inadequate when talking about alternative number systems. In the same way that Newtonian mechanics are a poor approximation to quantum mechanics, the elementary number theory that suggests that primes have no factors is also an approximation to quantum number theory (as used in quantum computers).

Read a good book on number theory such as "The Higher Arithmetic : An Introduction to the Theory of Numbers" by H. Davenport and maybe you'll learn something and stop speaking so much nonsense.


OK genius (none / 0) (#16)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Aug 5th, 2001 at 02:29:22 PM PST
Factor 31 for me


Easy (2.33 / 3) (#17)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Aug 5th, 2001 at 02:52:39 PM PST
31 = 7 x 7 (in base 16)

Next time, try harder when formulating your questions, dumbass.


Prime=not prime (1.00 / 2) (#19)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Aug 5th, 2001 at 03:27:20 PM PST
Then what's the point of having the concept of prime numbers, dumbass? Why do so many people search for them, dumbass? Why does GIMPS exist, dumbass? Seems to me, dumbass, that without resorting to fancy tricks of changing bases, finding prime numbers is pretty important.

Dumbass.


 
Using Quantum Number system: (none / 0) (#18)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Aug 5th, 2001 at 03:08:34 PM PST
31. On the face of it a impossible to factorise. But you have forgotten about the new world of quantum numbers, where anything is possible. Did mathematicians give up when they couldn't find out the square root of 1? NO! They invented 'i', an imaginary number, to take up the slack.

Davenport's insight was as follows:

To factorise an integer "a" you need to find integers b and c such that bc=a.

Lets do this properly:

a=bc
ac=b
Now, you don't need to know what ac actually is, you just need to know that it exists, and that it is a quantum number belonging to the set of integers. Lets take the number 31:

31=bc
31c=b
Now, 65=30, and 66=32. This means that c is either 5 or 6. In traditional mathematics, this would be viewed as a failure. But in the brave world of quantum numbering systems, this is sufficient. You don't need to know what c actually is; its value can vary from 5 to 6 or even 7,8, or 1. It can be anything at any particular time, but its average value will be an integer that when multiplied with 6 is equal to 31.

With the indeterminate nature and fuzzy logic of Quantum Computers, large scale factorisation of prime numbers will become possible by this process. It is a very fine art, and very useful for breaking codes, which is why the NSA and GCHQ are anxious to suppress this new discipline.

You just have to think outside the determinist box that has stymied mathematics for so long. HTH.


An aside (none / 0) (#20)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Aug 5th, 2001 at 03:33:08 PM PST
Why do I need to use imaginary numbers to find the square root of 1? 1x1=1, unless someone's changed it.


Re: An aside (5.00 / 1) (#24)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Aug 5th, 2001 at 07:00:48 PM PST
You don't need imaginary numbers to find sqrt(1).

i is defined as follows: i=sqrt(-1)


Ah... (none / 0) (#26)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Aug 5th, 2001 at 07:57:19 PM PST
AR #18 forgot the minus sign in the first paragraph.


 
what are you smoking? (none / 0) (#32)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Aug 7th, 2001 at 01:25:56 AM PST
I'm not sure, but it must be good. You must have been looking at your physics book too hard. Quantum number computations have nothing to do with factoring primes, and even if it could "factor" primes, the "factors" would be no use in breaking codes that rely on factorization of large numbers for obvious reasons, the most obvious being that those numbers aren't prime.

Uncertainty, such as Heisenberg's principle, is only applicable in real-world physics. If you are a nuclear scientist studying randomness and electrons and spend time playing with Schrodinger's cat all day, then what you say might be useful. The pure theoretical realm of number theory in mathematics has no use for this kind of guesswork.

Fuzzy logic is the realm of Bush and company; I would hate to think that someone would associate number theory with it.

You speak awfully big for someone who can't figure out 6x6=36.

Please shut up.


 
Look (3.00 / 2) (#25)
by seventypercent on Sun Aug 5th, 2001 at 07:07:11 PM PST
If Bill Gates says that it's possible, it's possible. I suppose you're smarter than Bill Gates, and that you're sitting on a hundred billion dollars or so? What's that? You're not? Great. Thanks for playing.

You remind me of the quote from Lord Kelvin: "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." I don't claim to be a mathematician, and quite frankly I think that math can be used to produce and justify some pretty dreadful things (this is why my children are only learning as much math as they need to get by morally in the world.) However, if there are disagreements on this issue, the standard Adequacy policy is to defer to the more authoritative opinion. Like it or not, you don't get much more authoritative than Gates.

--
Red-blooded patriots do not use Linux.

All it takes for evil to prosper is for good men (none / 0) (#27)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Aug 5th, 2001 at 08:13:36 PM PST
to say really stupid things...

I don't quite know how to answer this. Money=intelligence? Does your handle refer to how much of your gray matter was scooped out of your cranium at your lobotomy?

I'll just do what I usually do in this circumstance. I'll listen intently, nod my head when appropriate, then snicker loudly when you start to walk away.


did you mean to be sarcastic!? (none / 0) (#28)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Aug 6th, 2001 at 12:31:51 AM PST
I don't quite know how to answer this. Money=intelligence?

Duh.

Lookit, money is the measure of success in our society, right? So successful people either work hard like bricklayers or they work smart like Gates, see? Therefore Capitalism demands that the smartest people be the wealthiest otherwise -- *poof* -- Communism.

I dont know why this is so hard to understand. Or have I been trolled? If so -- as seems likely now that I think of it -- ha, ha, very funny, smart guy.


 
Different problems (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Aug 6th, 2001 at 04:54:49 AM PST
The definition of a prime number is set in stone. Anyone who can be taught the rule, can determine if a number is prime or not.

As for your quote from Lord Kelvin, that problem is open ended. Airplanes, helicopters, hovercraft, hang gliders are all different from each other, yet achieve the same overall goals.


 
You IDIOTS! (none / 0) (#34)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Aug 30th, 2001 at 05:54:07 PM PST
I cannot believe there is a 10+ post argument about whether prime numbers can be factored, stemming from this post. He means to say: "when the PRODUCT of two large prime numbers can be factored," as in "when all public key cryptosystems will be rendered obsolete."


 
It might help (3.66 / 3) (#11)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Aug 5th, 2001 at 10:31:11 AM PST
to learn a bit about the subject material before writing an article. It prevents copious amounts of bone-headed statements like the ones I read in the above article.

How can an autistic person be able to RENDER computer graphics? Sure they can do the calculations, but you would need somebody to type the result into the computer. Wouldn't it just be simpler to hire an artist to draw a picture?

I'm not even going to touch the second paragraph.

Do you know what the difference between a hash function and a public key system is? Look it up. You might learn something.


Possible solution... (none / 0) (#15)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Aug 5th, 2001 at 02:23:15 PM PST
How can an autistic person be able to RENDER computer graphics? Sure they can do the calculations, but you would need somebody to type the result into the computer.

If the autists were programmed to output compressed renderings in Divx ;) format, the length of the video data could be minimised. It is obvious that a skilled touch typist could enter the Divx data produced by the autists into the computer in real time.

Do you know what the difference between a hash function and a public key system is? Look it up.

Eh? Why do you bring hash functions up? Have you just learned a new phrase and want to impress us all with it? Well, nobody's impressed. The article only mentions RC5, which is a cipher intended for public key cryptosystems. RC5 does not work as a hash function. Why don't you try learning something first?


Whoops (none / 0) (#22)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Aug 5th, 2001 at 04:49:25 PM PST
Beg your pardon, I kept reading "MD5" instead of "RC5".

*smacks forehead*


 
Not public key (none / 0) (#23)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Aug 5th, 2001 at 04:57:31 PM PST
RC5 is a symmetric block cipher. That means that it is "easy" (not exponential in time or space) to decrypt a ciphertext using the encryption key.

If anybody uses a symmetric cipher and gives away the encryption key, they should be shot.


 
Wrong movie jackoff (none / 0) (#33)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Aug 7th, 2001 at 06:22:06 PM PST
<<However, the interesting (like Dustin Hoffman in the film "Kramer vs. Kramer") kind of savant can count matches, calculate actuarial tables for airline crashes and perform prodigious tasks of mathematical expertise.>>

I think a better example of this would have been.....RAINMAN!


Rainman? (none / 0) (#35)
by Anonymous Reader on Thu Aug 30th, 2001 at 07:27:42 PM PST
I humbly suggest that this article is satire. I also venture to suggest that the author makes subtle fun of Rainma... Dustin Hoffman's acting (in movies where perhaps he doesn't play an autistic character).


 
Broken Movie References? (3.00 / 3) (#21)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Aug 5th, 2001 at 03:49:52 PM PST
Why are all the movie references incorrect? I believe they should all be "Rain Man".


You're an idiot. (none / 0) (#36)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Sep 12th, 2001 at 11:48:52 AM PST
Its a joke. Satire. Its funny. No, don't try to think; just laugh. Fuckin morons. You're probably the type who can't read satire without the <satire> tag, and insists on asinine (heavy on the ass) smiley emoticons when ever someone makes a joke. "Deadpan" is probably an expression that is completely foreign to you.

Jeezus! Who knew an autistic tard would actually read this article.


 
You sir, are clearly uninformed. (4.00 / 1) (#30)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Aug 6th, 2001 at 09:45:59 AM PST
How could one post this story without a link to Mercury Rising, the best "Bruce Willis Defends a Little Boy With a Problem" movie (surpassing Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Die Hard with a Vengance and Bevis and Butthead Do American), in which a little dork with Autism named Simon cracks the government's most top secret codes and manages to evade countless hitmen by stumbling around like a dumbass. A must see event.


Misleading link in parent! Do not click! (none / 0) (#31)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Aug 6th, 2001 at 09:58:59 AM PST
The real Internet Movie DataBase link to Mercury Rising is here. HTH.


 

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