Memristics: Why memristors won’t change anything
Memristors are first of all a hype. Even a growing hype.
It didn’t explode immediately but is infiltrating unstoppably all the fancy IT-magazines. A whole machinery of echoing textual productions is celebrating or denying the advent of the unknown forth element, mathematically constructed by Leon Chua for symmetry-reasons (1971) and realized physically, finally by the HP team for Information and Quantum Systems Lab under the direction of R. Stanley Williams during the year of 2008.
How could a new element, even if it is the fourth, or if it is not even an element but a class of new elements, change the world (of technology)?
This blog-entry will show why such an element as it is reported in the magazines will change nothing. It will just accelerate the dimensions of what we are used to believe as guaranteed. Thus, don’t read the magazines, insist on original R&D papers! For free!
"How will memristors change everything?"
It will sound like an echo of an echo but I will not guarantee to keep the mirrors clean. People who have better access to the original papers than myself are disseminating the narrative in all the known styles of quick defences of their established positions. Quite late, well apologized for its retarded intervention, Todd Hoff is summarizing in a well written and entertaining survey, in the blog: HighScalability, nearly all points discussing the pros and cons of the new hype.
Todd Hoff, How will memristors change everything?
I will not echo this summary but will try to point to the main points of the discussion and then I hope to make it clear why all those fancy promises are not worth the excitement.
My own reading of the papers is not in the tradition of Anglo-saxon story-telling. I’m more interested in what could be called a French analysis and deconstruction of the conceptual deep-structure of the narration.
Such an approach is not entertaining and therefore not easy to read. The pleasure might be in the writing, and in the chance to seduce people to enjoy reading such analysis of the deep-structure of scientific and technological narratives, which are not specially welcomed.
Some people are even afraid to get cheated by a kind of a neo-Sokalism.
Now, what are all those changes, the memristor invention/intervention will force on us in the near future?
Faster, smaller, cheaper: Without this programmed reflex to everything possibly new, nothing is working.
There will be no support from academies, companies, military and post-humanists of the future of the human race, if the criteria of “Faster, Smaller, Cheaper” are not promised and realizations of it not guaranteed to be accessible in the near(est) future.
How to turn the hype into facts?
The best way to change the hype into facts is a double way. First, disseminate the hype. Not only on Facebook and Twitter, the name of the hype has to become ubiquitous. Second, do some serious research. Support research on all levels of accessibility. Tell the politicians that memristors are the Green Solution they are looking for. Memristics, i.e. the study of memristive systems, is still confronted with two main conceptual and technical challenges. One seems to be well known, the other remains uncovered.
Problem of self-referentiality
What is well known, albeit not solved, and studied mainly in other disciplines, like logic or cybernetics, is the problem of self-referentiality of second-order concepts defining memristive systems.
Self-referentiality occurs in many forms, as circularity, chiasm, proemiality or simply as superposition of formulas of different kind, like linear and non-linear formulas, e.g for the interaction of ‘logic and memory’.
Logical, ontological but also technical problems of the interchangeability of the roles of a memristor as a memory or as a logic are not yet conceived properly. The problem of self-referentiality is in fact a surface problem. Its deep-structure is heavily involved with the concept of semiotic, logical and ontological identity.
It seems that there are no working concepts in complex systems theory or in chaos theory, to deal with self-referentiality in a constructive and consistent way.
The localization problem
The second problem is more or less unknown to in the community of computer science and computer technology.
It is the problem of the localization of conceptual patterns. This problem seems not to exist in the literature of computation and realization of computational devices. There are voices pointing to the fact that “Simulations don’t become realizations” (Pattee) but that’s all you get.
On the other side, Jianhua Yang from HP, makes it very clear: Until now, computers are simulating learning, it is the program that tells computers to learn, computers itself are not learning.
With memristive technology things are radically different: It is the computing matter, the computer hardware, which is learning.
"Any learning a computer displays today is the result of software," says Yang. "What we're talking about is the computer itself – the hardware – being able to learn."
The learning matter (or the materiality of learning) is not a bowl of porridge. The ‘materiality of learning’ has its own time/space-structure.
Hence any behavioral pattern, like a logical implication, in such a system is marked by the place it takes. Any design of a ‘cognitive’ pattern in a memristive system has to be addressed by the place it takes.
The structural laws are designed by the memristive matter and not by a program of a theoretical formal system from the outside.
I might dare to predict that there will be no such radical development as it was stipulated by Todd Hoff "How will memristors change everything?" if the two challenges are not brought to a working (re)solution.
Memristive systems theory still lacks an understanding of the diamond structure of the behavior of memristors and it lacks too a theory of the positionality of memristive behaviors.
In short, what is needed, at least, is a diamond theory and a theory of place-designators for self-referential and located behaviors in memristive systems.
It is one of the aims of a proposed memristics to deliver a conceptual model and formal apparatus to deal with diamond (chiastic, circular, proemial) behaviors and the mechanisms of localizations suitable for memristive systems.