Computing as an Infinite Game
What happens when computers compute to continue the game rather than win?
This essay is part of the Mediocre Computing series.
In the opening essay of this series, The Dawn of Mediocre Computing, we kicked off our exploration of mediocre computing, my name for a future unified theory of computing that encompasses AI and crypto. I’m going to expand the scope1 to include robotics and metaverse technologies2 as additional genres within mediocre computing. I have appropriately retconned a few older essays into this series on the home page to reflect this expanded scope.
This scoping is not arbitrary. In this essay, I want to try and get at what I think is the most foundational philosophical connection among these apparently disparate genres: the active presence of infinite horizons. All four genres are operationally unbounded along at least one important vector. This is not an accident. Mediocre computing is infinity-aware computing that, in a consciously designed and explicit sense, effectively grapples with its own limits.
Mediocrity as an adopted performance standard is the result of rationally self-aware responses to infinities in the operating environment. We humans have always operated by that standard. We’re now teaching our computers how to do so.
As a brief preview (we’ll get into it more through this series):
Blockchains conceptually produce an indefinitely extended history and are assumed to extend indefinitely into the future.
Deep learning operates in what I have dubbed superhistory, and can be understood as an indefinitely accumulating memory operating on an unconstrained input space, while learning and growing indefinitely into the future.
And finally robots and metaverses (encompassing both VR and AR and more esoteric formulations) situate computation in ontologically unbounded contexts; realistic descendants of the toy infinite canvases of cellular automata and game-worlds. Contexts where as the computers “move” as a result of computation, the environment can change in arbitrary ways (ie not just via new symbols being input through keyboards).
In each of these cases, I will argue that effective computation proceeds to “continue the game” rather than “win” it. Mediocre computing is computers playing the infinite game.