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The Year 2038 Problem

As per Google's Usenet archives
[http://groups.google.com/googlegroup...ounce_20.html], the
first discussion of the Y2K problem on the Usenet was on January 18
1985 [http://groups.google.com/groups?thre...0%40reed.UUCP]. That
is a good 15 years before the problem manifested. Even then, it
turned out, we were scrambling for cover when the D-day was
approaching.

Although the Y2K scare turned out to be vastly overblown, we do have a
massive problem ahead of us ------ the Year 2038 problem. On Mon Jan
18 21:14:07 2038, the Unix seconds-since-epoch count will "roll-over".
After that, the time on the Unix systems will read as Fri Dec 13
14:45:52 1901.

IMHO, if we want to avoid the last minute panic that we witnessed
towards the end of the last millennium (while pursuing the Y2K
problem), we should begin the process of debating the viable solutions
to this problem NOW. It will take a long time for the consensus to be
built, and to come up with a solution that most (if not all) people
find acceptable. We also need considerable time to test out all
possible solutions in the real world, to decide if the solutions
really work as expected. We may also need to develop a suite of
recovery strategies should the problem manifest in some system on that
fateful Monday morning. All this takes time. So, as the late Todd
Beamer would have said: Let's roll.

Bhat
Nov 14 '05
248 10608
Thomas G. Marshall writes:
3. Nanobot assemblers turning us all into the "gray goo".
...Surface tension is formidable at that scale!

Yeah, but the surface tension is actually exploited by the little
critters, particularly for locomotion.


Sorry, I was being sloppy. What I was referring to is:
2. Sticky Fingers: The fingers themselves being made of atoms would
continually want to bond with surrounding atoms.
That. Just couldn't think of the terminology.

There is also:
1. Fat Fingers: The physical aperatus that would actually need to grab
small numbers of atoms would itself be made of a larger number of atoms.
Not atoms. Really, really large molecules, perhaps, but I doubt we'll
ever have machines down at the atomic level (in part for the Fat Fingers
aspect, but QM starts playing a role at that level, too).

There are also energy considerations.

There are "engineerin g problems" and "impossible problems". Examples,
we always knew you could break the sound barrier--the tip of a whip does
it. Solving that was just an engineering problem. The speed of light,
as far as we understand the universe, is an "impossible problem".

Solving it will require re-writing our understanding of reality.

Nanobots.... seem close to the boundary to me. They may be just an
engineering problem... or there may be aspects that make it impossible.

If we DO solve it, the code programs, for example, will probably have to
be molecule size (like DNA), and mechanics may be more biology than
machine. Which makes it like a virus or bacterium.

Which brings us back to, if it's *possible* for a small machine to
self-replicate to the extinction of all else... why hasn't it already
happened? Luck?
Well, it'd have to be pretty rugged to deal with large deposits of
non-organic compounds like, oh, a rock of Iron and Silicon.
Organic critters exist that eat these things.
But your point should be read in a larger sense: Perhaps if it was
possible for such things to occur, it would have happened already in
nature.
Exactly what I'm saying.
I'm not sure I buy it: There are many things that haven't occured in
nature by itself.


Such as?

Nov 14 '05 #231
Programmer Dude wrote:
<snip>
Which brings us back to, if it's *possible* for a small machine to
self-replicate to the extinction of all else... why hasn't it already
happened? Luck?


Presumably this kind of phenomenon would be restricted in scope to a
planetary scale. Interplanetary - or even interstellar - contamination
may be possible, but I'd also assume that certain limits would exist.
For example, if you dropped a mass of these self-replicating machines
into the heart of a star, would they survive the experience and begin
converting the star's matter into new replicants? Probably not, would
be my guess.

So having established some scope limits on the infestation, can we be
absolutely certain that the situation hasn't arisen somewhere in the
universe? We can barely detect the existance massive planets around
nearby stars as it is, so if something like that had happened even
nearby in our stellar neighbourhood, how would we know? :>

Remember: "The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's
stranger than we /can/ imagine."

--
Corey Murtagh
The Electric Monk
"Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur!"
Nov 14 '05 #232
jpd
On 2004-06-30, Programmer Dude <Ch***@Sonnack. com> wrote:
If we DO solve it, the code programs, for example, will probably have to
be molecule size (like DNA), and mechanics may be more biology than
machine. Which makes it like a virus or bacterium.
On a sufficiently low level, there is hardly a difference between metal
and carbon machines. As soon as the metal ones learn to overcome the
reproduction problem, that is.

Which brings us back to, if it's *possible* for a small machine to
self-replicate to the extinction of all else... why hasn't it already
happened? Luck?


It has? Granted, the machines are built from carbon and water and
what have you, but still, in the end it's little machines. The to the
extinction of all else part, well.. we assume there was nothing before
the current system came around, but can we be sure? If there was
something before, it sure isn't now.

The novelty would be in it being built from something else than carbon,
but it would have to be sufficiently abundant. Maybe if the athmosphere
was full of some silicon-based gas we'd all be silicon based lifeforms.
Alas, silicon is abundant but not, apparently, in a form where it is
easily absorbed and used as a building compound.

I always wondered what was so magic about 293 degrees Kelvin.
For us it is, but that doesn't mean the lucky number isn't different
in another environment.
--
j p d (at) d s b (dot) t u d e l f t (dot) n l .
Nov 14 '05 #233
Programmer Dude <Ch***@Sonnack. com> coughed up the following:
Thomas G. Marshall writes:
3. Nanobot assemblers turning us all into the "gray goo".

...Surface tension is formidable at that scale!

Yeah, but the surface tension is actually exploited by the little
critters, particularly for locomotion.


Sorry, I was being sloppy. What I was referring to is:
2. Sticky Fingers: The fingers themselves being made of atoms would
continually want to bond with surrounding atoms.


That. Just couldn't think of the terminology.

There is also:
1. Fat Fingers: The physical aperatus that would actually need to
grab small numbers of atoms would itself be made of a larger number
of atoms.


Not atoms. Really, really large molecules, perhaps, but I doubt we'll
ever have machines down at the atomic level (in part for the Fat
Fingers aspect, but QM starts playing a role at that level, too).

There are also energy considerations.

There are "engineerin g problems" and "impossible problems". Examples,
we always knew you could break the sound barrier--the tip of a whip
does it. Solving that was just an engineering problem. The speed of
light, as far as we understand the universe, is an "impossible
problem".


You countered your own statement as you wrote it. Did you notice?

"...as far as we understand the universe..."

Even when we thought that faster than sound travel was impossible, it was
because of our understanding. You must always account for what we might
better understand later.

Though I admit: These certainly seem now to be impossible problems or near
enough so to make it a verrrrry long time before we figure it out.

Solving it will require re-writing our understanding of reality.

Nanobots.... seem close to the boundary to me. They may be just an
engineering problem... or there may be aspects that make it
impossible.

If we DO solve it, the code programs, for example, will probably have
to be molecule size (like DNA), and mechanics may be more biology than
machine. Which makes it like a virus or bacterium.

Which brings us back to, if it's *possible* for a small machine to
self-replicate to the extinction of all else... why hasn't it already
happened? Luck?
Well, it'd have to be pretty rugged to deal with large deposits of
non-organic compounds like, oh, a rock of Iron and Silicon.


Organic critters exist that eat these things.
But your point should be read in a larger sense: Perhaps if it was
possible for such things to occur, it would have happened already in
nature.


Exactly what I'm saying.
I'm not sure I buy it: There are many things that haven't occured in
nature by itself.


Such as?

Nov 14 '05 #234
q


Programmer Dude wrote:
Thomas G. Marshall writes:

3. Nanobot assemblers turning us all into the "gray goo".

...Surface tension is formidable at that scale!

Yeah, but the surface tension is actually exploited by the little
critters, particularly for locomotion.


Sorry, I was being sloppy. What I was referring to is:

2. Sticky Fingers: The fingers themselves being made of atoms would
continually want to bond with surrounding atoms.


That. Just couldn't think of the terminology.

There is also:

1. Fat Fingers: The physical aperatus that would actually need to grab
small numbers of atoms would itself be made of a larger number of atoms.


Not atoms. Really, really large molecules, perhaps, but I doubt we'll
ever have machines down at the atomic level (in part for the Fat Fingers
aspect, but QM starts playing a role at that level, too).

There are also energy considerations.

There are "engineerin g problems" and "impossible problems". Examples,
we always knew you could break the sound barrier--the tip of a whip does
it. Solving that was just an engineering problem. The speed of light,
as far as we understand the universe, is an "impossible problem".


No you do not go faster than light.
What you need is a worm hole.
Say you want to travel from one side of the balloon to a point on the
other side. You don't travel along the surface of the balloon,
you travel along the diameter of the balloon (through the interior of
the balloon)!!
You could also warp space. Remember space warps in the presence
of gravitational fields.


Solving it will require re-writing our understanding of reality.

Nanobots.... seem close to the boundary to me. They may be just an
engineering problem... or there may be aspects that make it impossible.

If we DO solve it, the code programs, for example, will probably have to
be molecule size (like DNA), and mechanics may be more biology than
machine. Which makes it like a virus or bacterium.

Which brings us back to, if it's *possible* for a small machine to
self-replicate to the extinction of all else... why hasn't it already
happened? Luck?

Well, it'd have to be pretty rugged to deal with large deposits of
non-organic compounds like, oh, a rock of Iron and Silicon.


Organic critters exist that eat these things.

But your point should be read in a larger sense: Perhaps if it was
possible for such things to occur, it would have happened already in
nature.


Exactly what I'm saying.

I'm not sure I buy it: There are many things that haven't occured in
nature by itself.


Such as?


Nov 14 '05 #235
Corey Murtagh writes:
Which brings us back to, if it's *possible* for a small machine to
self-replicate to the extinction of all else... why hasn't it already
happened? Luck?
Presumably this kind of phenomenon would be restricted in scope to a
planetary scale.


[grin] I read an SF story once about these trees with a core like an
SRB. When they matured, they blasted off into space to drift until
they made planetfall elsewhere....
For example, if you dropped a mass of these self-replicating machines
into the heart of a star, would they survive the experience and begin
converting the star's matter into new replicants? Probably not,...
But if they DID, they'd be tres formidable, eh? (-:
So having established some scope limits on the infestation, can we be
absolutely certain that the situation hasn't arisen somewhere in the
universe?


Yes, I think so. :-|

But all seriousness aside, with millions of years of evolution, plus
certain aspects of the physics suggesting it's very difficult...[shrug]

Who knows!

--
Somewhere in the Midwest...
Chris Sonnack <Ch***@Sonnack. com> in Training...
http://www.Sonnack.com/
Nov 14 '05 #236
Thomas G. Marshall writes:
There are "engineerin g problems" and "impossible problems". Examples,
we always knew you could break the sound barrier--the tip of a whip
does it. Solving that was just an engineering problem. The speed of
light, as far as we understand the universe, is an "impossible
problem".
You countered your own statement as you wrote it. Did you notice?

"...as far as we understand the universe..."


Not countered, qualified. Our understanding at this point is good enough
that our model (QM) accounts for huge amounts of behavior. In the case
of breaking C, we'd have to rewrite our understanding. Compare that to
how Einstein merely *extended* Newton.
Even when we thought that faster than sound travel was impossible, it was
because of our understanding. You must always account for what we might
better understand later.


Absolutely, and hence the original qualification. When we look back on
our worldview when we though mach speeds were impossible, we realize we
were very ignorant of the physics. In this case we seem to understand
them, and some very precise tests provide expected results.

Simply, the situation isn't quite the same now as then.

--
Somewhere in the Midwest...
Chris Sonnack <Ch***@Sonnack. com> in Training...
http://www.Sonnack.com/
Nov 14 '05 #237
Programmer Dude wrote:
Corey Murtagh writes: <snip>
So having established some scope limits on the infestation, can we be
absolutely certain that the situation hasn't arisen somewhere in the
universe?
Yes, I think so. :-|


All we can say with any authority is "we haven't observed it yet". That
doesn't mean it hasn't happened. I'd rather admit to the possibility
that I'm ignorant of the facts than to arrogantly assume that since I
can't see it then it doesn't exist :>
But all seriousness aside, with millions of years of evolution, plus
certain aspects of the physics suggesting it's very difficult...[shrug]

Who knows!


If there's even the slightest possibility of it happening, then
somewhere, somewhen, it /will/ happen.

"Space is big. /Really/ big. You have no idea just how mind-bogglingly
big space really is."

--
Corey Murtagh
The Electric Monk
"Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur!"
Nov 14 '05 #238
Corey Murtagh <em***@slingsho t.no.uce> scribbled the following
on comp.lang.c:
Programmer Dude wrote:
But all seriousness aside, with millions of years of evolution, plus
certain aspects of the physics suggesting it's very difficult...[shrug]

Who knows!
If there's even the slightest possibility of it happening, then
somewhere, somewhen, it /will/ happen. "Space is big. /Really/ big. You have no idea just how mind-bogglingly
big space really is."


"You might think it's a long way down the corner to the chemist's, but
that's just peanuts to space."

I like that quote.

--
/-- Joona Palaste (pa*****@cc.hel sinki.fi) ------------- Finland --------\
\-- http://www.helsinki.fi/~palaste --------------------- rules! --------/
"I am not very happy acting pleased whenever prominent scientists overmagnify
intellectual enlightenment."
- Anon
Nov 14 '05 #239
Corey Murtagh writes:
So having established some scope limits on the infestation, can we be
absolutely certain that the situation hasn't arisen somewhere in the
universe?
Yes, I think so. :-|


All we can say with any authority is "we haven't observed it yet".


I realize it's a non-standard usage, but you do realize my "straight
face" emoticon means I'm totally kidding (with a straight face, yet)?

Anyway,... I agree. Basically.
That doesn't mean it hasn't happened. I'd rather admit to the possibility
that I'm ignorant of the facts than to arrogantly assume that since I
can't see it then it doesn't exist :>
No arrogance. Here's the thing, we are not completely ignorant of the
facts. Certain physical specifications obtain, and that, plus that it
hasn't happened (even close) on earth, simple **suggests** it may be
very unlikely. (To me, and this was my original point, is simply
suggests it's not worth worrying about when disease or asteroids are
far, far greater dangers.)
If there's even the slightest possibility of it happening, then
somewhere, somewhen, it /will/ happen.
So,.... somewhere I'm dating Michelle Pfeiffer? Lucky me!!
"Space is big. /Really/ big. You have no idea just how mind-bogglingly
big space really is."


"You might think's it a far walk down to the chemist's, but that's just
peanuts compared to space." (That's from memory...wonder how close I
got it.)
--
Somewhere in the Midwest...
Chris Sonnack <Ch***@Sonnack. com> in Training...
http://www.Sonnack.com/
Nov 14 '05 #240

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