Monday, February 22, 2010

Q3-85 - CARET Program - Isaac

The Technology

A lot of the technology we worked on was what you would expect, namely antigravity. Most of the researchers on the staff with backgrounds in propulsion and rocketry were military men, but the technology we were dealing with was so out of this world that it didn’t really matter all that much what your background was because none of it applied. All we could hope to do was use the vocabulary of our respective fields as a way to model the extremely bizarre new concepts we were very slowly beginning to understand as best we could. A rocket engineer doesn’t usually rub elbows much with a computer scientist, but inside PACL, we were all equally mystified and were ready to entertain any and all ideas.

The physicists made the most headway initially because out of all of our skills, theirs overlapped the most with the concepts behind this technology (although that isn’t saying much!) Once they got the ball rolling though, we began to find that many of the concepts found in computer science were applicable as well, albeit in very vague ways. While I didn’t do a lot of work with the antigrav hardware myself, I was occasionally involved in the assessment of how that technology was meant to interface with its user.

The antigrav was amazing, of course, as were the advances we were making with materials engineering and so on. But what interested me most then, and still amazes me most to this day, was something completely unrelated. In fact, it was this technology that immediately jumped out at me when I saw the Chad and Rajman photos, and even moreso in the Big Basin photos.

The “Language”

I put the word Language in quotes because calling what I am about to describe a “language” is a misnomer, although it is an easy mistake to make.

Their hardware wasn’t operated in quite the same way as ours. In our technology, even today, we have a combination of hardware and software running almost everything on the planet. Software is more abstract than hardware, but ultimately it needs hardware to run it. In other words, there’s no way to write a computer program on a piece of paper, set that piece of paper on a table or something, and expect it to actually do something. The most powerful code in the world still doesn’t actually do anything until a piece of hardware interprets it and translates its commands into actions.

But their technology is different. It really did operate like the magical piece of paper sitting on a table, in a manner of speaking. They had something akin to a language, that could quite literally execute itself, at least in the presence of a very specific type of field. The language, a term I am still using very loosely, is a system of symbols (which does admittedly very much resemble a written language) along with geometric forms and patterns that fit together to form diagrams that are themselves functional. Once they are drawn, so to speak, on a suitable surface made of a suitable material and in the presence of a certain type of field, they immediately begin performing the desired tasks. It really did seem like magic to us, even after we began to understand the principles behind it.

I worked with these symbols more than anything during my time at PACL, and recognized them the moment I saw them in the photos. They appear in a very simple form on Chad’s craft, but appear in the more complex diagram form on the underside of the Big Basin craft as well. Both are unmistakable, even at the small size of the Big Basin photos. An example of a diagram in the style of the Big Basin craft is included with this in a series of scanned pages from the [mistitled] "Linguistic Analysis Primer". We needed a copy of that diagram to be utterly precise, and it took about a month for a team of six to copy that diagram into our drafting program!

Explaining everything I learned about this technology would fill up several volumes, but I will do my best to explain at least some of the concepts as long as I am taking the time to write all this down.

First of all, you wouldn't open up their hardware to find a CPU here, and a data bus there, and some kind of memory over there. Their hardware appeared to be perfectly solid and consistent in terms of material from one side to the other. Like a rock or a hunk of metal. But upon [much] closer inspection, we began to learn that it was actually one big holographic computational substrate - each "computational element" (essentially individual particles) can function independently, but are designed to function together in tremendously large clusters. I say its holographic because you can divide it up into the smallest chunks you want and still find a scaled-down but complete representation of the whole system. They produce a nonlinear computational output when grouped. So 4 elements working together is actually more than 4 times more powerful than 1. Most of the internal "matter" in their crafts (usually everything but the outermost housing) is actually this substrate and can contribute to computation at any time and in any state. The shape of these "chunks" of substrate also had a profound effect on its functionality, and often served as a "shortcut" to achieve a goal that might otherwise be more complex.

So back to the language. The language is actually a "functional blueprint". The forms of the shapes, symbols and arrangements thereof is itself functional. What makes it all especially difficult to grasp is that every element of each "diagram" is dependant on and related to every other element, which means no single detail can be created, removed or modified independently. Humans like written language because each element of the language can be understood on its own, and from this, complex expressions can be built. However, their "language" is entirely context-sensitive, which means that a given symbol could mean as little as a 1-bit flag in one context, or, quite literally, contain the entire human genome or a galaxy star map in another. The ability for a single, small symbol to contain, not just represent, tremendous amounts of data is another counter-intuitive aspect of this concept. We quickly realized that even working in groups of 10 or more on the simplest of diagrams, we found it virtually impossible to get anything done. As each new feature was added, the complexity of the diagram exponentially grew to unmanageable proportions. For this reason we began to develop computer-based systems to manage these details and achieved some success, although again we found that a threshold was quickly reached beyond which even the supercomputers of the day were unable to keep up. Word was that the extra-terrestrials could design these diagrams as quickly and easily as a human programmer could write a Fortran program. It's humbling to think that even a network of supercomputers wasn't able to duplicate what they could do in their own heads. Our entire system of language is based on the idea of assigning meaning to symbols. Their technology, however, somehow merges the symbol and the meaning, so a subjective audience is not needed. You can put whatever meaning you want on the symbols, but their behavior and functionality will not change, any more than a transistor will function differently if you give it another name.

Here's an example of how complex the process is. Imagine I ask you to incrementally add random words to a list such that no two words use any of the same letters, and you must perform this exercise entirely in your head, so you can't rely on a computer or even a pen and paper. If the first in the list was, say, "fox", the second item excludes all words with the letters F, O and X. If the next word you choose is "tree", then the third word in the list can't have the letters F, O, X, T, R, or E in it. As you can imagine, coming up with even a third word might start to get just a bit tricky, especially since you can't easily visualize the excluded letters by writing down the words. By the time you get to the fourth, fifth and sixth words, the problem has spiraled out of control. Now imagine trying to add the billionth word to the list (imagine also that we're working with an infinite alphabet so you don't run out of letters) and you can imagine how difficult it is for even a computer to keep up. Needless to say, writing this kind of thing "by hand" is orders of magnitude beyond the capabilities of the brain.

My background lent itself well to this kind of work though. I'd spent years writing code and designing both analog and digital circuits, a process that at least visually resembled these diagrams in some way. I also had a personal affinity for combinatorics, which served me well as I helped with the design of software running on supercomputers that could juggle the often trillions of rules necessary to create a valid diagram of any reasonable complexity. This overlapped quite a bit with compiler theory as well, a subject I always found fascinating, and in particular compiler optimization, a field that wasn't half of what it is today back then. A running joke among the linguistics team was that Big-O notation couldn't adequately describe the scale of the task, so we'd substitute other words for "big". By the time I left I remember the consensus was "Astronomical-O" finally did it justice.

Like I said, I could go on for hours about this subject, and would love to write at least an introductory book on the subject if it wasn't still completely classified, but that's not the point of this letter so I'll try to get back on track.

The last thing I'd like to discuss is how I got copies of this material, what else I have in my possession, and what I plan to do with it in the future.

Found Here:

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