How does a traveller computer work, and apart from skil wafers what does it do that we cant do today?

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
Moppy
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How does a traveller computer work, and apart from skil wafers what does it do that we cant do today?

Postby Moppy » Sat Jan 26, 2019 3:00 pm

Traveller space stuff is very different. It is hard to fly around in space today, and FTL is fringe science (most well moderated physics communities would ban FTL discussion within the main area).

Traveller travel & communication is very different. Crossing the Imperium is hard, and works like the old days where travelling to a different country was an adventure in itself, and you probably died en-route.

Other high technology magic like antigrav and longlevity potions are available.

Consider computers, which are "supposed" be an integrated part of high tech societies. Apart from the skill wafer, I am not seeing anything in TLs 9 to 15 that's revolutionary compared to today. In fact we can do almost anything I can find in the core rulebook computer section today, either in the lab where "it kinda works" or in the real world where it's blocked by political and legal barriers.

With the exception of the skill wafer, which is considerably better than watching a youtube video about how to change a bathroom tap, and is truly revolutionary.

What else is revolutionary?

Do we know how a Traveller computer actually works? We're very close to the limits of what's possible with silicon due to atomic limits, and they don't have FTL in a computer. If it is silicon, are advancements they have new mathematics or smarter design? If they're not silicon what are they? I note the presence of superdense molecular armor, so perhaps some atomic engineering inside the computer? Quantum computing?
Sigtrygg
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Re: How does a traveller computer work, and apart from skil wafers what does it do that we cant do today?

Postby Sigtrygg » Sat Jan 26, 2019 4:55 pm

If I could tell you haw a TL9+ computer works I would be making more money than Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Apple combined. :) What they do is setting specific, in the universe of which the Third Imperium 1105+ is a thing you need a TL9 computer to handle the calculations etc. needed to make a jump drive possible.

Using the language of today to describe something that is at least two TLs above our current paradigm would be like asking an eighteenth century scientist or engineer to explain the science and technology behind a GPS satellite (hint - they couldn't).

But since this is science fiction let's take what we do know and then extrapolate, postulate and just take wild guesses.

1 - the computer is likely to use some sort of 'neural' structure and not only is programmable but can also 'learn'
2 - quantum computing will be a thing
3 - data storage capacity will be way beyond what we have now
4 - voice/gesture recognition and interface will make using a computer/device no more difficult than talking to a person

Some of the stuff that is cutting edge looks like stuff from sci fi shows eg transparent displays, foldable screens
Condottiere
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Re: How does a traveller computer work, and apart from skil wafers what does it do that we cant do today?

Postby Condottiere » Sat Jan 26, 2019 5:33 pm

Basically, it's a race to the lowest denominator, or molecule that can communicate with other molecules; at the current trajectory, probably stacked molecules connected with nanotubes using light to switch them on and off, since shortening distances between components tends to speed stuff up. I think the light is supposedly provided by nano lasers, but I think may be deflected with mirrors from a micro laser.

A quantum computer probably can formulate the answer before we think of the question.

The hardware part is the design and manufacture of a tool for various purposes and price points.

It requires software that can take advantage of the increased speed and bandwidth provided by simultaneous processing through any number of physical cores and virtual threads.

At the moment, Intel is stuck at fourteen nanometres, since they're trying to figure out how to increase yields on ten nanometres, while Advanced Micro Devices seems to have mastered seven nanometre architecture, having identified that process as more viable, jumping almost directly from fourteen nanometres; apparently, figuring this out has a direct effect on manufacturing yields, allowing them to for all practical purposes to vastly underprice (compared to Intel) their central processing units.

Plus, they've decided to break up various components into separate chiplettes, so that these can be manufactured at different sized processes, since it's either cheaper and/or hard to manufacture at seven nanometres as part of an integrated die.

At the rate they're going, five nanometres is likely by twenty twenty one, and three by twenty twenty four, as their Taiwanese foundry partner will probably have completed their new factories and tested that process by then. One reason that Intel is poaching their top talent in their need to catch up.
Moppy
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Re: How does a traveller computer work, and apart from skil wafers what does it do that we cant do today?

Postby Moppy » Sat Jan 26, 2019 5:52 pm

So much pseudo-science about FTL & weapons and little about computers!

I rememeber reading a detailed description of Bolo (by Keith Laumer) armor and armament and a one line note that "computers have Quirthian architecture".
Condottiere
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Re: How does a traveller computer work, and apart from skil wafers what does it do that we cant do today?

Postby Condottiere » Sat Jan 26, 2019 6:02 pm

Architectures are designs.

ARM being a very simplified and energy efficient variant; the competition between it and Intel is whether power efficiency will be the primary driver, or compatibility with legacy programmes and sheer horse power.
Sigtrygg
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Re: How does a traveller computer work, and apart from skil wafers what does it do that we cant do today?

Postby Sigtrygg » Sat Jan 26, 2019 6:04 pm

If you haven't already done so I would recommend watching Isaac Arthur's youtube channel.

If you search all the computer related stuff you may get a few great ideas about what TL9+ computers are like and are capable of. TL15 computers may as well be magic crystal Kryptonian technology.

Traveller, both Mongoose and T5, is only just starting to delve into the transhumanist stuff that TL9+ makes plausible.
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Re: How does a traveller computer work, and apart from skil wafers what does it do that we cant do today?

Postby Garran » Sun Jan 27, 2019 6:42 am

Really, it comes down to this.

Traveller was conceived about forty years ago when the things that computers can do today (and the forms they take) would've been seen as the realm of wildly implausible sci-fi.

The effects of most other technology getting better largely amounts to doing the same thing more effectively, or at least in ways that are easy to predict. (A higher-tech gun is still fundamentally a gun and does pretty much the same thing as a flintlock musket - just better and more reliably.) Considering how we're now living in the wildly implausible sci-fi of four decades ago - and how drastically that has affected society - the real problem with 'miraculous new advances' that TL9+ computers would represent, and the effects of hundreds (never mind thousands) of years of further development is that, even if we had any idea what to predict, the resulting society would be utterly unrecognizable.

Unrecognizable AND unrelatable. That's a non-starter in any work of fiction but especially so in an RPG.
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Re: How does a traveller computer work, and apart from skil wafers what does it do that we cant do today?

Postby steve98052 » Fri Feb 15, 2019 6:34 pm

Sigtrygg wrote:
Sat Jan 26, 2019 4:55 pm
. . .
Using the language of today to describe something that is at least two TLs above our current paradigm would be like asking an eighteenth century scientist or engineer to explain the science and technology behind a GPS satellite (hint - they couldn't).
. . .
Actually, an 18th century scientist could have designed the GPS system with the basic science of the time. It relies on a clock to generate a time signal from each satellite, received at a point on the Earth's surface. By subtracting the time signals from each satellite and multiplying by the speed of light (first determined experimentally in 1676, though not very accurately), the relative distances to the satellites would be known, defining a hyperbolic surface for each satellite pair. Calculating the intersection of the hyperbolic surfaces could be done with known mathematics of the era (I think). The satellites' orbital positions would also need to be calculated, by way of Kepler's laws (early 1600s, improved by Newton in the late 1600s). They didn't know about radio, but they could have invented a night-only system based on light pulses.

Although the basic science was sufficient to invent GPS (and if there had been more science fiction literature at the time, someone probably would have), they lacked the necessary technology. They didn't know how to launch a satellite into orbit. They didn't know how to power a long-lasting pulse generator. they didn't know how to build clocks of sufficient accuracy. (The first good longitude clock was only built in 1730.) They weren't able to do the hyperbolic calculations quickly.

But the basic science was there.

- - -

On the original topic, what does a far future computer do? I think it's like a gun, in the sense that we may not know how to build a gauss rifle that can spin-stabilize a projectile and accelerate it to 1500 m/s, or build a battery to power it, but we understand the general idea of making a computer calculate faster, just as we understand the idea of making a slug go faster.

We don't know the basic science of what a far future computer can calculate; the software side is hard to imagine. We don't necessarily know the limits of basic science underlying the hardware either. Quantum computing? Something else? Hard to say.

We also don't know about the computing a Traveller computer might be expected to do. Everything sublight is 17th century math, except where relativity comes into play to a way where Newtonian approximations aren't close enough, and then it's still only 20th century math. Classic Traveller suggested that jump calculations were within the reach of computers that were obsolete before the 1970s, though we obviously don't know what they are.

The transhuman applications of computing weren't invented in early Traveller; the closest it came was the heads-up display visor as a computer screen. We can't build them now, but they are probably not far off. We don't know how politics or social acceptance will influence anything transhuman, but the customary Traveller setting suggests that not much is accepted anywhere in Charted Space. That may not be realistic, but it's a good assumption for accessible game-play.
Sigtrygg
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Re: How does a traveller computer work, and apart from skil wafers what does it do that we cant do today?

Postby Sigtrygg » Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:12 pm

No. it wasn't.

No concept of electromagnetic radiation and radio. And without general relativity your clocks would/could not be corrected to tell the right time...
Moppy
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Re: How does a traveller computer work, and apart from skil wafers what does it do that we cant do today?

Postby Moppy » Fri Feb 15, 2019 10:06 pm

steve98052 wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 6:34 pm
Actually, an 18th century scientist could have designed the GPS system with the basic science of the time... They didn't know about radio, but they could have invented a night-only system based on light pulses.
Stars? Celestial navigation?
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Re: How does a traveller computer work, and apart from skil wafers what does it do that we cant do today?

Postby Linwood » Sun Feb 17, 2019 7:03 pm

Accurate within 5 degrees??? :)
RogerMc
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Re: How does a traveller computer work, and apart from skil wafers what does it do that we cant do today?

Postby RogerMc » Sun Feb 17, 2019 7:57 pm

Personality.

May or may not be a true AI but the higher TL the computer the more apparent personality it has.

And even an entirely passive and reactive higher TL computer can still feel like it has a personality of its own.

Lucy in Killjoys for example.
Sinanju
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Re: How does a traveller computer work, and apart from skil wafers what does it do that we cant do today?

Postby Sinanju » Sun Mar 10, 2019 6:56 am

RogerMc wrote:
Sun Feb 17, 2019 7:57 pm
Personality.

May or may not be a true AI but the higher TL the computer the more apparent personality it has.

And even an entirely passive and reactive higher TL computer can still feel like it has a personality of its own.

Lucy in Killjoys for example.
I agree. And IMTU this is explicitly the case. While "true" AI is forbidden (and where it exists nonetheless is very carefully hidden for fear of both governmental reaction and "angry villagers with pitchforks and torches"), every computer has a natural language interface allowing people to communicate with it as easily as they talk to one another, and that computer can have a personality. Nothing that will interfere with it doings its assigned tasks, but enough that it can feel like a real "person" to people who interact with it regularly. Given that people anthropomorphize animals and objects now, I imagine that getting your computer destroyed in battle and having to replace it will feel very much like losing an actual crewman.

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