Beyond the Singularity – Computronium

Posted By on January 13, 2016

Beyond the Singularity – Computronium we look at a material hypothesized to be used as “programmable matter,” a substrate for computer modeling of virtually any real object.

Norman Margolus and Tommaso Toffoli of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed this idea of matter to be used as “programmable matter.” You can also read their 1987 paper on ‘Cellular Automata Machines’ here.

The advantages of an architecture optimized for cellular automata (CA) simulations are so great that, for large-scale CA experiments, it becomes absurd to use any other kind of computer.

Computronium is matter that has been transformed from its natural state into a computer of the maximum physically achievable efficiency. (An Extropian might argue that this is matter’s “natural state”.) What constitutes “computronium” varies with the level of postulated technology; a rod-logic nanocomputer is probably too primitive, since the basic elements consist of hundreds or thousands of atoms. More likely forms of computronium include three-dimensional quantum cellular automata, or exotic forms of matter such as neutronium, Higgsium, and monopolium. [Definition by Eliezer Yudkowsky]

Bill Butera from MIT CBA also developed a programming model where little code fragments hop from particle to particle, traveling around and self-organizing into a system that solves a problem. The vision is to change the computer from a monolithic box to a raw material that gets configured by instructions traveling through it.

Ray Kurzweil – What Will Happen After the Technological Singularity?

So that means that any material with particles (that’s everything from rocks to water to whatever) could in fact become a computer at the particle level. It’s a pretty wild idea. Here’s Ray Kurzweil to explain a little more.


Nikolas Badminton is a world-respected futurist speaker that researches, speaks, and writes about the future of work, how technology is affecting the workplace, how workers are adapting, the sharing economy, and how the world is evolving. He appears at conferences in Canada, USA, UK, and Europe. Email him to book him for your radio, TV show, or conference.

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