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It is clear that the integration of vast numbers of inexpenisve
computational and communication elements, sensors, and actuators can
revolutionize the design of physical systems. The research plan
outlined here will yield three classes of results that are essential
in realizing this potential.
- Means to amass and coordinate computing agents at prices
comparable to the raw material costs. It has long been recognized
that the limiting factor is the cost of interconnection and
cooperation, rather than the complexity of the individual elements.
Amorphous computing proposes to eliminate the need for precision
interconnect altogether, in favor of a new approach to organizing
programs and processes.
- Mechanisms for incorporating sensing, computation, and
actuation into ordinary engineering materials. Smart paint and smart
skins admit a large class of applications that seem within reach.
- Programming technology required to orchestrate the
activities of huge numbers of programmable entities. We will distill
organizing principles that will enable us to develop software that
directs the construction of specific structures. To make a
three-dimensional tightly-packed system, for example, we will have to
have software that organizes parts into power distribution and heat
removal structures as well as communication paths. How does the DNA
program for a maple leaf cell construct the pattern of veins? Can we
use this idea to build better machines?
Gerald Jay Sussman
Thu Jun 27 16:56:19 EDT 1996