Vernor Vinge has stepped into Kurt Vonnegut's empty shoes to ask readers of the Kurzweil AI blog a question the recently deceased immortal might approve : 'What if The Singularity Doesn't Happen ?'
Before speculation on the thermodynamics of information becomes completely divorced from discussion of its embodiment , a little dimensional analysis is in order. Though Quantum computing works because it happens at no energetic expense , one of the weird corollaries of spooky action at a distance is that you get nothing for nothing- something material has to exist and be doing work at both the transmitting and receiving ends to write and read the input and output. So despite the metaphysical elegance of it all , somebody has to pay Q-bit based AI's power bills.
It is cautionary that while only ounces of electrons at one time do the heavy computational work of the internetk the humongous infrastructure supporting their caged rattling within semiconductor junctions takes upwards of fifty million horsepower to run. At present , in America , this means creating some few molecules of CO2 per binary 1 or 0 computed -- a server consumes more than its weight in coal each day.
The trivial counterargument is that such a black box could run instead on say , 20 square meters of solar cells and a battery. But wait a minute. Rev that meme up to the level of supporting a supercomputer per capita , and the planet turns into a glinting black ball paved with Green power supplies. This will not make Angelenos happy, as their Cool Cities initiative aims at down shifting the Earth's albedo , not turning it into a solar oven.
So Singularists and readers of Fortune are invited to assay this question, and apply the unreasonable power of dimensional analysis themselves. Adamant invites then to tender envelope-back curves showing just how they think the power requirements of Getting Singular will evolve over the coming decades. Since it's a long road to the Quantum Computing equivalent of the one atom transistor , I expect to receive some warm words as well. All entries must be received by January 1 , 2027.