The Singylarity Ain't Here 7
Copyright 2010 David Dodds
This episode we discuss how cam shafts and deliberation are related. (Remember
the written discussions of Ada Augusta Byron and also of Charles Babbage (and
George Boole)). [We also see a tidbit from Vannevar Bush.]
"Ada Lovelace met and corresponded with Charles Babbage on many occasions, including socially and in relation to Babbage's Difference Engine and Analytical Engine.
During a nine-month period in 1842-43, Lovelace translated Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea's memoir on Babbage's newest proposed machine, the Analytical Engine. With the article, she appended a set of notes. The notes are longer than the memoir itself and include (Section G), in complete detail, a method for calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers with the Engine, which would have run correctly had the Analytical Engine ever been built. Based on this work, Lovelace is now widely credited with being the first computer programmer and her method is recognised as the world's first computer program."
Sketch of The Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babbage by L. F. Menabrea with notes upon the Memoir by the translator Ada Augusta, Countess of Lovelace http://www.fourmilab.ch/babbage/sketch.html
Ada Lovelace's Notes http://www.cs.yale.edu/homes/tap/Files/ada-lovelace-notes.html
I've not yet been privy to any discussion or printed material regarding the design of Robby for this movie, at least so far as details as to the various devices/objects comprising his head and face are concerned. We all know that the Christmas tree lights on each side of his head are 'beams' (and seemed similar, at least visually, to the 'common blaster' (side arm) which the captain and crew had (reachable in a wild west holster no less). We'll get back to the cams after some discussion of a history of rotating memory devices.
If you look at the drawings/plans made by Charles Babbage (1822!) which depict the physical layout of the mechanical parts of his "Analytical Engine" you recognize 'gears' , 'shafts', etc, and may see a cam or two.
Certainly by the time Vannevar Bush built his analyzer [The Differential Analyzer was MIT's first computer, built by Vannevar Bush and his students in the early 1930s.] you can see that physical morphology of components, coupled with electro-mechanical operations/actuators were what defined the 'mathematical operations'. The analyzer had wheel and disk integrators, have a look at some photographs via the web of this mechanical Differential Analyzer.
<Quote / snippet from web.mit.edu/mindell/www/analyzer.htm>
"[There are] bus rods which carry variables between different calculating units. Variables are encoded as shaft positions (in rotation). The machine is programmed by rearranging these rods and gears, requiring a new assembly for each set of calculations. The rods also add and multiply, using gearing between them. </end quote/snippet from web.mit.edu/mindell/www/analyzer.htm>
Later, analog electric/electronic computers, replete with patch-boards with tangles of plug-wires, replaced some of the mechanical/electro-mechanical components in 'calculators' like V.Bush's DA.
I have written elsewhere how Fortran/CSMP computer programs replaced the analog electric/electronic computers by means of digital computation. Digital differentiation was more accurate and more sophisticated, other operations were better also.
Well Robby had six cams and <cam> 'followers' (levers pressed against the cams) which flipped about when it was depicted in the movie that he was 'thinking'. (Watch this classic movie again to see of which I am speaking.) Often just before he said something (glib or profound) those cams/followers went whir, clickity-click, fling. Hmm, just before Vannevar.Bush's Differential Analyzer output its 'answer' to a computation(al question) it went whir, rotate, spin, flick.. It couldnt speak but the flick was the output of a plotter.
An exact model of Charles Babbage' Difference-Engine has been built in recent times  (from his drawings/plans) and operated! (for a few years! (ie since 2000)). Looking at the pictures of the machine (below) and (pictures of) the plans of the machine we can see that there are lots of intermeshed gears and shafts. (Shades of the
1930s Bush Differential Analyzer!) Computation is being done by rotating wheels/cogged gears and computational results are transmitted (from place to place in the machine) by means of shafts; note this is the case for both the 1822 Babbage machine and the 1930s Vannevar Bush machine! Whir, clickity-click, fling of Robby's cams/followers is the way computations can be actually performed. (Continued after the pictures).
See some marvelous pictures of Babbage' device:
<Wikipedia>"The Difference Engine was an automatic, mechanical calculator designed to tabulate polynomial functions. Both logarithmic and trigonometric functions can be approximated by polynomials, so a difference engine can compute many useful sets of numbers.
Once completed [in 2000], both the engine and its printer worked flawlessly, and still do. The difference engine and printer were constructed to tolerances achievable with 19th century technology, resolving a long-standing debate whether Babbage's design would actually have worked.
Although the "printer" is here [Wikipedia] referred to as such, its primary purpose is to produce stereotype plates for use in printing presses; Babbage's intention being that the Engine's results be conveyed directly to mass printing, rather than through a fallible human typesetter. The printer's paper output is mainly a means of checking the Engine's performance."</Wikipedia>
Whir, clickity-click, fling of Robby's cams/followers is the way computations can be actually performed. In electro-mechanical computers a continuous function can be assigned to a rotating disk by shaping the circumference of the disk such that it physically maps the values of the continuous function by means of dips and peaks in the disk edge. That basically is what a cam is. It used to be used to time engines (lifters and such). We never got a closeup of the cams in Robby's face. Perhaps they were machined to represent some continuous function, maybe the wave fronts of nonlinear Wilson-Cowan (1973) equations.
> "The diverse spatio-temporal patterns give a more concrete form to several metaphors advanced over the years to attempt an explanation of cognitive phenomena: Activity waves embody the "holographic memory" (Pribram, 1991); wave mixing provides a plausible cause of the competition called "neural Darwinism" (Edelman, 1988); finally the consecutive generation of growing neural waves can explain the discontinuousness of "psychological time" (Stroud, 1955). "</..4578>
(Note: I have mentioned Stroud's work elsewhere before.)
It might also be that the outer edge of the cam in Robby's face had a coating which held a magnitude of light shone on it from the follower and was retained for a period due to optical persistence. There might have been multiple longitudinal optical tracks on the follower edge of the cams and the followers having multiple optical sensors in each arm. Maybe there was an electromagnetic coating (under the optical one) and the follower arms could read/write electromagnetic data as the cams turned. If you have seen film/video of Robby's face while he is operating you notice that the cams also light up brightly at times. Could this be optical data transactions? Just as we now have commercially available two-layered DVDs, what if those cams had multi-layered optical storage? (different light frequencies could be used to address specific layers). Have a look at this PDF: http://www.rsc.org/suppdata/LC/b9/b904354c/b904354c.pdf
What if the cams had (air powered) digital circuitry micro-etched into them, perhaps along cam-radials rather than (horizontally) along the circumference in some manner? A Cam-radial (rectangular sheet) would allow for enough circuitry to be placed to provide significant functionality, such as the 8-bit microprocessor shown on page 18 of the b904354c.pdf.
We continue our discussion of processing systems comprised of other than human brain tissue. (and there will also be discussion of 'waves' / signals in brain tissue (Pribram and such) as well as artificial neuron processing discussion.) There is a huge (anthropocentric) bias about the special capabilities of this wet-ware and it is useful to look at alternatives, even if they dont comprise full brains as we have. Among the many other kinds of materials and structures for processing we see that few, if any, have what I call 'biological wholism'. We see what this is and how it is missing from formal systems, like Von Neuman machines. Faster Von Neuman machines and many threads/cores does not make these machines intelligent, nor give them anything approaching 'biological wholism'. One of the things we look at is system monitoring of the (same) system, and how a vaguely 'biological wholism' processing can be developed from that. Some people will already know about program-introspection in languages like Python and Java and we will see how such introspection capability is a component of implementing a machine version of 'biological wholism'. (Not making a computer biological but much more wholistically integrated. Ganzfelds instead of point (magic). ) This is done by raising the machine's level of 'intrinsic sophistication'.