G4 and After Science

Art by Mike LeeMOORE'S LAW -- BASED ON THE OBSERvations of inventor and former chairman of Intel Gordon Moore -- states that every two years, we figure out how to double the number of transistors on an integrated circuit, effectively quadrupling its power. In The Age of Spiritual Machines, drastically honored author/inventor/Artificial Intelligentsian Ray Kurzweil maintains that this paradigm applies to everything from the century's first mechanical tabulators and relays to vacuum-tube computers, discrete transistors, and, more apparently, integrated circuits. Kurzweil figures Moore's Law will die out around 2020, however, when transistor insulators are no more than a few atoms thick -- not enough mass to support even the tightest resolutions of photolithography. At that point, he says, a new paradigm will emerge from three-dimensional technologies (DNA computers, nanotubes, crystalline computing, others), and, within a few years, you'll be able to buy a computer with the raw processing ability of your brain -- about 20 million billion neural-connection calculations per second -- for around US$1,000. According to everyone, these $1,000 computers will be called way fucking fast.

Until then, we're stuck with Moore's Law; we call our fastest 'puters supercomputers. To qualify as a supercomputer and receive the appropriate tax credits, a processor must be able to execute floating-point operations at a rate of at least one gigaflop -- one billion of 'em per second. To emphasize the amazingness of such an ability, allow me to insult us all with an unreasonably domestic comparison: If you type 95 words per minute, it'll take you 20 nonstop type-years before the gangrenous knuckle-nubs that were once your fingers punch out the billionth bloody word. Only one human task outside neurotransmission rivals the speed of a supercomputer: ejaculation. The average male human can execute well over a billion sacred sperm cells in well under a second, which is why all men must go to hell.

And which brings us to Apple's Macintosh G4. While the Macintosh G3 family of computers re-established Apple as a savvy curator of architectural elegance and power on the inside and brazen zaniness on the outside, its new G4s, with their Motorola MPC7400 microprocessors, can sustain over a billion floating-point operations per second. Apple calls the G4, with its fabulous 128-bit vector processor, "the first supercomputer on a chip." "In fact," Apple continues, "[the G4] has a theoretical peak performance of four gigaflops. Seriously -- it's gonna kick your ass like a motherfucker."

Apart from being a fine line of computers, Apple's Macintosh G3 series has given us the opportunity to see lots of curvy, colorful, translucent plastic. Which is a hell of a lot more interesting than putty-painted bricks. iBrator.com (www.ibrator.com) provides this same convenience in a high-powered personal vibrator designed to complement your iMac or G3 desktop. And iBrator has collaborated with the Rolling Stones (NYSE: RGST; NASDAQ: RLS) to create a fine promotional QuickTime video available at http://www.sleeplessknights.com/Pages/icolors.html.

On the cover of Milton Bradley's original Battleship -- a missile-exchange game for citizens ages 7 to adult -- two pale children are depicted on either side of two objects that look very much like keyboardless laptop computers with open, screenless monitors. (Non-keyboard and non-monitor are instead grids of numerically and alphabetically delineated cylindrical indentations, each defined by the intersection of coordinates x and y. Each player plugs ships of two to five sectors in length into the non-keyboard grid, and uses the non-monitor grid to track their outgoing missiles: "B-3?" "Miss." "F-11?" "Hit." Just like the Gulf War.) So on the original cover, Pale Wholesome Child A, on your left, exclaims "G-4!" to which PWCB (on your right) replies, "It's a hit!" I never owned a copy, but several friends did. And all of them had customized the cover image in the same way: Using a blue ballpoint pen, they'd eliminated the upper-case i, the t, the apostrophe and the a, so that the cover read "G-4!" "Shit!" which is why all 10-year-olds must go to hell. If you aren't a 10-year-old or don't want to go to hell, you can play WebBattleship with yourself for free at http://genesis.ne.mediaone.net/battle/.

If you've ever spoken with someone who brags of being a member of Mensa, you know that having a high-powered brain doesn't necessarily make you a higher power. When computers can process as much and as fast as you can, some of them will inevitably develop Mensa-style attitudes. Computers blinded by arrogance will be seen driving their kids to soccer practice in smug Volvo wagons sporting Mensa license-plate frames and "my-clone-was-widget-of-the-month" bumper stickers. As long as we the people are going to be obsolete, we may as well provide our computers with our IQs, so they'll know what to tattoo on our foreheads. Brain.com (yup -- www.brain.com) has a lovable li'l five-minute (timed) IQ test (www.brain.com/iq_content.htm) that will give you the info you need as well as an inherently lower score for having a slow Internet connection.