Brain in a Box

Brain in a Box

Image by jurvetson
Stan Williams, the HP Labs guru, spoke of creating a “central nervous system for the Earth (CeNSE) with a trillion nanoscale sensors and actuators. The goal is to revolutionize human interaction with the Earth as profoundly as the Internet has revolutionized personal and business interactions.”

From a conversation I had with him over lunch, I was fascinated about a new development, not yet published. Stan has figured out a way to implement all logic functions without negation. It is easy to implement all logic functions using only NAND or NOR gates, but not with just an AND or OR gate. He found the premise for this in a 160 year old philosophy book, and he calls the new gate IMP.

This allows him to implement all logic functions using only two-terminal devices (vs. three-terminal transistors traditionally used today).

Before this, the main application of Stan’s work was memory. The memristor is interesting as he can migrate dopants electrically with a two-terminal device, thereby creating a nanoscale non-volatile memory.

Two-terminal devices are much easier to assembly on the nanoscale, using simple crossbars of metal, and/or self-assembly techniques.

From earlier blogging: “Given the importance of memory advances and the relative ease of applying molecular electronics to memory, we may see a bifurcation in Moore’s Law, where technical advances in memory precede logic by several years. This is because molecular self-assembly approaches apply easily to regular 2D structures, like a memory array, and not to the heterogeneous interconnect of logic gates. Self-assembly of simple components does not lend itself to complex designs.” (further blogging on the molecular electronics future)

Also, from what he sees, Nanotech is emerging from the hype / valley of despair cycle to real business opportunities.

8 Replies to “Brain in a Box”

  1. If you break from a traditional von neumann instruction set, you can actually achieve logic in a different way with just this sort of new memory architecture, by generating circuits on the fly to solve and arbitrary problem in a single clock cycle, and rather than pushing and popping instructions on stacks, you push and pop circuits generated on the fly which solve the entire problem in a single machine clock cycle. We looked at this to some extent while I was at Labs. The key is having sufficient gate density, and the proper compiler technology to break from a traditional microcode generator and linker. We are just now crossing the critical gate density capabilities to enable this sort of next generation computing architecture. The problem is continuing to hold onto a von neumann machine architecture. Hey, if all you have are nails, guess what you are going to use? (Hammer). Time to invent the bolt.

  2. Re: creating a “central nervous system for the Earth (CeNSE) with a trillion nanoscale sensors and actuators. The goal is to revolutionize human interaction with the Earth as profoundly as the Internet has revolutionized personal and business interactions.” Care to explain (or link to) the meaning of this? The reason, the applications, the benefits, the potential? For who or what? The earth and/or mankind? Very curious… don’t want to go into detail… just an overview will do, if possible. Thanks.

  3. Steve – Your photos are the only ones on flickr where I’m just as likely to tag them as Favorites because of the associated text, rather than the quality of the image (although that’s a frequent reason as well). Thanks! Chris

  4. I started a knol discussing some background and possible future applications of memristors at knol.google.com/k/blaise-mouttet/programmable-electronics… . Let me know what you think.

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