Mind at Light Speed: A New Kind of Intelligence

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Free Press, 2001 - Computers - 303 pages
"Mind at Light Speed" is the ultimate story of artificial intelligence -- and how it will revolutionize the world in which we live. David Nolte, Professor of Physics at Purdue University, and his research colleagues have devoted their lives to building computers that use light instead of electricity for computation. These machines will be so fast and efficient that they will generate a new kind of intelligence, which for centuries has only been dreamed of by visionaries and mystics. That science fiction is now real.

Since the invention of the laser right up to the recent news that a light particle was halted as if it were a baseball caught in a mitt, we have watched the manipulation of light grow ever more sophisticated and ingenious. That line of research is about to pay off more dramatically than we could have hoped. Nolte's and his colleagues' simple yet revolutionary idea is that, while electric charge may have always done the calculating in our computers -- "and" inside our brains -- we can build machines that compute with light, with photons, instead. Such optical computers would operate at light speed and in the process redefine intelligence. That technology is happening.

The much-discussed bandwidth revolution is being driven by fiber-optic cables that make optical computing inevitable. Nolte shows how the photons that travel down those cables will soon stop not at the curb in front of your house but flow right inside your home and inside your computer, passing information from chip to hard-drive -- and then the photons will move right onto the chips themselves. These machines will be the first light computers. Their hard drives will be holograms able to accesseverything at once and, in time, their switches will become quantum switches. Nolte already holds patents on the optical processors that will be the heart of these new machines, and, in a goldmine appendix on the light speed economy, he lists the optical research and development companies he finds most intriguing.

If machines ever become beings, their minds, to borrow a phrase from Hermann Hesse, will be a "glass bead game" in a stream of light. Combining expertise in linguistics, information sciences, computer science, physics, and engineering, this account from the pinnacle of human technological endeavor reveals the future of intelligence, and of our lives.

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Projects that the twenty hundreds will see replacement of electronic computers by optical (photonic) ones, eventually evolving into quantum computers. Read full review


The Glass Bead Game
Three Generations of Machines of Light
The Structure of Visual Intelligence

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About the author (2001)

David D. Nolte is Professor of Physics at Purdue University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley and is now a leading researcher of the physics of optical materials and devices, with several U.S. patents on adaptive holographic films. He was elected a Fellow of the Optical Society of America for his pioneering work on dynamic holography in semiconductor nanostructures and has won the Presidential Young Investigator Award of the National Science Foundation. He lives in West Lafayette, Indiana.

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