The Ultimate Computer

The personal computer on my desktop is hundreds of times as fast, and has thousands of times as much memory, as the mainframe computer that served my entire university when I was a student. Such advances in the processing speed and storage capacity of computers are expected to continue until the laws of physics impose certain limits. After all, we cannot shrink atoms or increase the speed of light.

Now, imagine a computer technology that eventually approaches these limits. Imagine further that every star in every galaxy in the observable universe could somehow be fashioned into computers of this ``ultimate'' type. That would be a lot of very fast computers. Or if they were connected together we could think of them as a single, massively parallel computer: call it the ``Universe Computer.''

Admittedly, there are tasks - word processing, for example - at which this imaginary computer would be no more useful than any one of its constituent computers operating independently. But for large, repetitive trial-and-error tasks, such as code breaking, the speed and power of this integrated ``Universe Computer'' would be vastly superior to anything we could ever hope to build, right?

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.


By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.