Memristors, a Danger in Electronics

This is a post for people that know something about electronics and logic. Memristors are the missing element in the component options we know, we have resistors, capacotors, inductors, but until recently we did not have a memristor. In logic you can make any expression if you have AND and NOT, or OR and NOT or some other minimal combination. Similarly in electronics you can have any circuit if you have some minimal nr of components. The memristor completes the set of basic components.

Mathematically and philosophically a memristor is a missing link, a beautifull completion..

What is a memristor? Its a resistor that can be varied and then rememebers its resistance. Its like a tube that widens if a lot of water flows through, and then goes thinner when less water flows through. There is a memory effect, which means that you can store data in a memristor, but unlike most current types of memory the data storage is almost permanent (10 years for current components). Memristors are also called ‘univeral memory’ because of its ‘no power’ memory aspects.

I wrote about this topic before in 2016 “Closer to AI, or Hewlett Packards Memristor Machine”

Because a memristor is an analog device, as it has a resistance that varies non-discretely, it can mimic neural network elements. In AI the paradigm currently is mostly matric multiplications, where you have input signals 1 or 0 which get multiplied by a real number weight (say 0.213124) and is then put through a threshold function turning it into 1 or 0 again.

Memristor based matrix multiplication : The resistors are the weights, the multiplication takes one step

Memeristors can make this process easier, because a resistor can divide a voltage so that the output is only part of the input. So instead of having to put binary numbers in registers in a CPU or GPU and multiplying them digitally you can just put a 1 on the line of the resistor and add up the voltages that come out on the other hand. The memresistor more or less functions as a passive processing element, setting the value of the memristor ‘redesigns’ the network it will implement. It requires -no- energy to retain the resistive value, where normal memory needs to be refreshed. This is also the danger to humanity of this kind of device.

Hewlett Packard’s vision of ‘the machine’ is a super fast, super connected compute structure with memristor memory.

The above video is quite old, from 2014, and it should in some people trigger an eerie and creepy response. The guy outlines that Hewlett Packard seeks to build a super fast network of super low energy consuming machines to perform functions we now associate with internet and media, but also AI. Memristors are an essential element in this infrastructure, that seems to be intended to dominate our reality.

The problem with this vision is that 1. It does not make us server our needs, it is mainly meant to serve the fossil based economy and distract/program consumers. 2. As part of AI systems these memory banks (which can be gigantic) will not forget. They can not be switched off. If a bipedal android has memristor memory (which it got because it was lower energy and faster) and makes a mistake that is harmfull, it is possible you can’t approach it, you can’t power it down, and if you power it up again, it will continue to do exactly what it did before you shut it down.

What if you computer could not be reset? One error and it had to be replaced. What if it did dangerous things?

Mythic now offers AI accelerator chips that permanently store inference parameters (network weights) in memristor memory. They can not learn, they can only be set and used. It is 100% true these devices will cut cost, save energy, enable lots of cool applications. But they bring an inertia to possibly mobile and dangerous devices that won’t stop doing what they are doing unless you break the chip out of their circuits. It should certainly not be allowed to store personal data in such memory, as the ‘machine’ as HP calls it, should be avoidable, and us humans should be unidentifyable.

The world is not numbers, a higher number or even the same number can represent a different reality

The economy makes it very easy for us, if the number goes up its good, if the number goes down its bad. Like eggs in a basket, you want to have enough, some always want more. But there’s a reality behind those eggs, and that reality is changing in ways the eggs don’t show. First they came from happy free roaming chickens that felt protected from foxes at the farm, eating whatever was around. Now they are inbred, force fed, get their beaks cut, live in squalor of their own filth, die miserable deaths. Now they are dangerous vectors of respitory viri. The number did not change, but reality did. Keep an eye on the use of universal memory and memristors, because its a different reality than the one we are used to now!