explain what you mean when you say "supercomputer is the father of the
originated because the supercomputer created a need for it. The Internet
is the technological embodiment of e pluribus unum, the Latin
phrase “out of many, one.” That is, out of many computers, emerged one
Internet. The origin is the point where the computer gave birth to the
Internet. That, in turn, was preceded by our understanding that many
processors could be harnessed to form one supercomputer. Therefore, it
was the supercomputer technology that gave birth to the Internet. The
supercomputer is the father of the Internet.
The engine that drives a supercomputer is thousands of processors
that are tightly-coupled. We then harness those tightly-coupled
processors to compute and communicate simultaneously.
Similarly, the engine that drives the Internet is loosely-coupled
millions of computers that we've harnessed to compute and communicate,
asynchronously. In other words, the essential work of the supercomputer
is concurrent in time while that of the Internet lacks this concurrence
Therefore, both the supercomputer and the Internet in essence are
interconnected computing and communicating nodes. Both use communication
protocols for transmitting and receiving data. For example, I used
explicit message passing communication primitives to exchange
information between the thousands of nodes within my hypercube computer.
In lay terms, I exchanged email between the thousands of nodes. I used a
binary-reflected single-distance code (also known as binary-reflected
Gray code or BRGC) address for my nodes while the Internet uses an IP
(Internet Protocol) address for each device (node). [The single-distance
code has a checkered history was first used in mathematical puzzles,
telegraphy (Émile Baudot in 1878), pulse code communication (Frank Gray,
March 17 1953. U.S. patent no. 2,632,058)
For example, each of my 4096 nodes must have its own 12-bit unique
binary identification number. For a 16-node sub-cube, I would assign the
following 4-bit binary number generated from a single-distance code:
Its called a single distance code because the binary identification
number of successive nodes differ in exactly one bit position (see bits
in bold and underscore). A bit is the acronym for binary
digit, which is the smallest unit of information on a computer.
Alternatively, we can state that the Gray code is a rearrangement of the
4-bit binary numbers so that adjacent (nearest-neighboring values)
differ by one bit position. Since the Internet is not a tightly-coupled
computing engine the latter nearest-neighbor proximity is not necessary
in assigning IP address numbers to Internet devices. This
nearest-neighbor proximity is a necessary condition to achieve fast
computational rates within a supercomputer powered by thousands of
Therefore, both the supercomputer and the Internet germinated from
the same conceptual idea, namely, the point at which we understood that
thousands of processing nodes can compute and communicate
To restate it again, the basic essence of a supercomputer is
computation and communication. However, since the supercomputer is
defined and designed to be the world's fastest computing machine, it
places a greater emphasis on computation.
The basic essence of the Internet is computation and communication
also, but the Internet places a greater emphasis on communication.
Why is the Internet different from the supercomputer. The answer is
that they each have different focus.
The email is the number one application of the Internet. Emailing is
99 percent communication and one percent computation. The number one
application of the supercomputer is solving complex differential
equations. Solving differential equations is 99 percent computation and
one percent communication.
Yet, the first application of the supercomputer and the Internet is
solving differential equations. It happens that the first application on
the Internet is the least popular one.
8-bit Single-Distance Code
It will be impractical for me to harness the power of 65,536
processors without assigning 65,536 unique names to them. Since each
node is either a source or a destination, each must be have an
associated source and destination address.
My required inter-processor was not simple as a unicast (to a single
node) or as complex as a broadcast (to all 65,536 nodes). It was a
multicast to nearest-neighboring nodes. Depending on my formulation, the
number of nearest neighboring nodes varies from six to 26. For my six
nearest-neigboring nodes, I used the self-relative addressing of north,
south, east, west, up and down.
Since my computation-intensive problem must be subdivided into 65,536
smaller problems, I had to also assign 65,536 unique names to my
sub-problems. Alphabetic names are not possible and numeric names
expressed in decimal notation are also not practical. For example,
processor number 255 (in decimal system) was renamed 11111111 (in binary
system). Since 65,536 is originated in the 16th dimensional hypercube,
255 was renamed 0000000011111111. In other words, each of the 65,536
vertices of a 16-cube required 16 bits to uniquely label it and the
identification number of adjacent vertices differ by exactly one bit,
hence the name single-distance code.
A hypercube graph with 64
Please note the similarity between the addresses of my
supercomputer nodes and that of my website emeagwali.com. My
seven-dimensional hypercube supercomputer node number 66 has the address
8-bit 01000010, my 16-dimensional hypercube supercomputer node number
65,535 has the 16-bit address 1111 1111 1111 1111, while the IP address
assigned to my web server consists of 32-bit 4 octet address (i.e. four
numbers separated by periods) 01000010.11000101.11010100.11000101.
When you visit me at emeagwali.com you are actually at a computer
"named" 01000010.11000101.11010100.11000101. Thankfully, emeagwali.com is
easier to remember than a 32-bit address. The binary number is important
because the computer only understands zeros and ones.
Generating the single-distance code
By definition, the two single-distance indentification numbers of 1 bit
(integer values 0 and 1) are zero and one. The single-distance code of
n is derived from that of n - 1 bits by (1) writing it
forward, (2) writing it backward; (3) prefixing the first half with zeros;
and (4) prefixing the second half with ones.
The number 65,536 is equivalent to two-to-power-16. Therefore, its
single-distance identification number will be 16-bit long or 512 times
more characters than the above. When I realized that this will be roughly
the equivalent of 600 printed pages, I considered giving up on this
A friend of mine joked that elephants have good memory and could
remember just about anything. Since I did not possess the memory of an
elephant, memorizing one million zeroes and ones (600 pages) in their
exact sequence was out of the question. I had to revert to self-relative
addressing which required that I memorize the identification of only four
Also, my single-distance identification list is circular: it has no
tail or head, no beginning or end, or rather the end is next to the
beginning. That makes it a supercomputer programmer's delight. For
example, I found it easy to, when needed, to barrel shift an entire set of
rows (or columns) of very large arrays in a unit time. The reason is that
the values that moved off from one edge of the array reappear at the
Even without circularity, I could still shift an entire set of rows (or
columns) of very large arrays in a unit time. However, the values that
moved off from one edge of the array do not reappear at the opposite edge.
Instead, as an option, specified or external boundary values are written
at the edges. When external boundary values are not specified, then by
default a zero value is written at the boundary. The maximum size of the
arrays is limited by the memory capacity of the computer. Note that all
the elements of the arrays can be simultaneously shifted and that the time
taken to shift one element is essentially equal to the time taken to shift
65,536 elements. In other words, I could simultaneously perform 65,536
interprocessor communications, a key to my achieving fast computational
Finally, when all the required interprocessor communications are
performed, the required data is then available within the local memory of
each processor, and the grid point calculations, which then consist of
simple scalar-matrix operations, can be simultaneously performed without
further interprocessor communication.
In the calculations that I performed in 1987, the shift function took
475 microseconds to start and 19 microseconds to shift an element out of a
physical processor. Thus, for a virtual processor ratio of 25, half of the
time used in performing my shift operation was spent on overhead. The
overhead reduced when the virtual processor ratio increased.
The above is
an illustration of various shift functions and below is a code fragment in
which I implemented a finite difference approximation of the shallow water
wave model for weather forecasting (circa 1983).
CVNORTH = CSHIFT(CV,DIM=1,SHIFT=-1)
CUSOUTH = CSHIFT(CU,DIM=1,SHIFT= 1)
UNEW = UOLD + TDTS8*(CSHIFT(Z,DIM=2,SHIFT= 1)+Z)*
$ (CSHIFT(CV,DIM=2,SHIFT= 1)+CSHIFT(CVNORTH,DIM=2,SHIFT= 1)+
$ - TDTSDX*(H-CSHIFT(H,DIM=1,SHIFT=-1))
VNEW = VOLD - TDTS8*(CSHIFT(Z,DIM=1,SHIFT= 1)+Z)*
$ - TDTSDY*(H-CSHIFT(H,DIM=2,SHIFT=-1))
PNEW = POLD - TDTSDX*(CUSOUTH-CU)
$ - TDTSDY*(CSHIFT(CV,DIM=2,SHIFT= 1)-CV)
emeagwali.com is 01000010.11000101.11010100.11000101
My website address emeagwali.com is actually the IP address
126.96.36.199, written in decimal-dot-notation in which 4 octets (bytes
or 8 consecutive bits) are separated by a dot. In other words, typing
188.8.131.52 takes you to emeagwali.com. Each IP address has the format
xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx, where the number xxx has a value between
zero and 255.
66 = 0100 0010
197 = 1100 0101
212 = 1101 0100
197 = 1100 0101
Therefore, the IP address of emeagwali.com in binary format is
01000010.11000101.11010100.11000101, which is interpreted as equivalent to
How did you
become interested in supercomputers and the Internet?
When I was a
child in Nigeria, my father drilled into me the ability of "fast
computation" to solve hundreds of mathematical problems in an hour. In
the early sixties, only a handful of Nigerians could gain admission into
post-primary schools, which required two levels of competitive entrance
examinations. A typical examination required solving 60 math problems in
an hour. My father made me practice solving 100 maths problems in an
hour. I became a human supercomputer without knowing it. I was so good
that my classmates labelled me a sorcerer, accusing me of using "juju"
(charms, magical powers) and insisted on searching my school bag.
In those days, the most talented Nigerians were accused of using
juju. A Nigerian goalkeeper accused the opposing team of using juju to
send him seven balls simultaneously. In January 1966, the story goes, a
group of young Nigerian coup planners went to arrest then president
Nnamdi Azikiwe in his residence. They found in each room seven Azikiwes.
The coup planners immediately fled his residence.
Using dangerous charms was frowned upon and I was ostracized and
beaten up by some disgruntled classmates.
Also, my father was a failure in school and was using me to fulfil
his dreams. Nonetheless, I benefitted from his daily drills and my
interest in fast computation continued.
When I was twenty years old, I read a book published in 1922 called
"Weather prediction by numerical processes" by Lewis Fry Richardson. It
talked about the use of 64,000 humans to perform fast computation for
weather forecasting. That book inspired me to invent an international
network for 64,000 far-flung electronic computers that were uniformly
distributed around the Earth.
My theory of “64,000 far-flung” computers was interesting but was
ridiculed by meterologists of the United States National Weather
Service. The argument was that it could not be used to execute actual
weather forecasts. Hence, in the early 1980s, I turned my attention to
more manageable problems such as river flood forecasts on one single
computer. I spent five years working, actually volunteering, at the
United States Weather Service. Racism in science was so strong that my
white co-workers ignored me and regarded me as a part of the office
furniture. The lab chief had zero interest in my research project. The
only attention that I ever received was in April 1986, when I was given
a big send-off party. Looking back, I believe the party was a
celebration of their relief that I will not be showing up every morning.
It eliminated their anxiety of permanent and close personal contact that
will occur if I seek a paid position at their lab.
It was at the U.S. National Weather Service that I understood the
meaning of the terms "white privilege" and "invincible black tax." I
worked 80 hours a week without pay while all the white scientists worked
40 hours a week with pay. At the end of the year, those white scientists
returns, say, 20 percent of their salaries to the government as tax and
then look down on me for not paying any taxes. The truth is that I have
already paid 200 percent of my income as taxes. I paid tax at a rate
that was ten times higher than my white counterparts but was denied the
privilege of full citizenship.
By 1986 I had gain more experience, became confident and I realized
that I could perform actual computational experiments if I revised the
concept from "64,000 far-flung computers connected as a HyperBall" to 64
binary thousand (i.e. 65,536) processors interconnected as a hypercube
in a box the size of an automobile. An actual computational results will
upgrade my ideas from "theory" to a solid contribution to scientific
from my first test-bed code meterological forecasts written in 1983.
discretization of weather equations with special notations that I
invented for the conceptual programming that I did in the early 1980s.
Mathematician Alfred North Whitehead noted that "By relieving the
brain of all unnecessary work, a good notation sets it free to
concentrate on more advanced problems." (An Introduction to
Mathematics, Oxford University Press, 1958).
In the 1970s, the notation used to write array type problems such as
those occurring in the numerical approximations of partial differential
equations or cellular automata accentuated the elements of the arrays.
While that approach was suitable for sequential computations, it did not
emphasize the fact that the operation is on the entire array.
In my conceptual programming, my parallel array notation allowed me
to write an entire array as a single entity that will be computed in
parallel. I used my new notation to represent the dependent variables
which I wrote in bold letters. My notation is language- and
machine-independent and allows for a more concise and expressive
representation of the communication and computational requirements of
grid-based, synchronous, parallel problems.
The superscripts are the indices in the time direction the subscripts
are the indices in the x- and y-directions, respectively. I discretized
the shallow water equations with a staggered leap-frog finite difference
scheme to yield the above approximations.
I used a staggered finite difference grid to reduce the
computation-intensiveness of my weather forecast model by a factor of
To be shown later are two figures of my two-dimensional domain that
is separated as red and black subdomains which are independent of each
other. Such staggered grids can be used in many explicit finite
difference formulations. The computational workload is reduced by
computing the scalar quantities (such as pressure, fluid density, depth,
and temperature) on the red (black) subdomains while the vector
quantities (such as velocity) are computed on the black (red)
subdomains. We can similarly divide the subdomains into four equal parts
such as the red, black, yellow, and blue subdomains.
The staggered approach ties together the four independent solutions
that arise from the four independent numerical grids of the
non-staggered leap-frog scheme. This scheme is second-order accurate in
space and time. Since it is conditionally stable, it must satisfy the
Courant-Friedrich-Lewy condition. The leap-frog scheme is highly
dispersive and therefore often exhibits non-linear instability. As a
result, I used a time-filtering parameter to introduce additional
I also formulated the three-dimensional analogue for weather
forecasts. In practice, the two-dimensional was as computation-intensive
as its corresponding three-dimensional model. The reason is that the
computation-intensiveness of my test-bed weather forecast code was
defined by the memory capacity. The fixed memory capacity requires that
an increase in the number of grid points taken along the altitude be
simultaneously accompanied by a proportional decrease in the number of
grid points taken along either the latitude or longitude or both. In
addition, since the three-dimensional model required more arithmetical
operations per grid point, and since the memory limits the total number
of grid points that can be used, the total number of grid points used in
a three-dimensional model is smaller than what could be used in the
corresponding two-dimensional model.
Note: The lea-frog method inspired me to coin the now popular
phrase "leapfrogging into the information age."
In 1988, I used those 65,536 processors to perform the world’s
fastest computation of 3.1 billion calculations per second.
More importantly, I extrapolated my results, which came from 65,536
processors, to reach the conclusion that one trillion processors would
be one trillion times faster than one processor working alone. My
experiment and discovery implied that there was no theoretical limit to
the power of a supercomputer, and that the Internet would eventually
evolve to become a single powerful, earth-sized, universal
My illustration of how to design my hyperball computer
for weather forecasting. I was the first scientist to invent a
computer network that can accomplish what Lewis Richardson envisioned. I have always believed that
the Internet will eventually become one hyperball computer with billions of processing nodes.
Richardson's work inspired my use of 64K [K=1024 in
computer lingo] or 65,536 processors to perform the world's fastest
computation of 3.1 billion calculations per second in 1988.
Specifically, Richardson regarded his idea of of using 64000
human computers to forecast the weather for the whole Earth as "fantasy" [i.e. science fiction]. I proposed
that we, instead, use 64000 electronic computers evenly distributed around
the whole Earth.
Inspired by the HyperBall international network that
I invented in 1975, I used a hypercube computer
to solve the world's largest
mathematical equations (128 million locations in 1989)
for petroleum reservoir simulation. The latter received
international recognition in 1989, and my earlier work
on the HyperBall which was previously dismissed as "nonsense" was re-interpreted as "ahead of its
time." For the latter reason, some refer to me as "one of the fathers of the
where was the Internet invented?
tells us that the Internet was invented to help the United States defend
itself against nuclear attacks. That story is not true. ARPA was the
government agency that oversaw the construction of the earliest network,
named ARPAnet. Charles M. Herzfeld, the former director of ARPA,
Why was the ARPAnet started? Most of the early "history"
on the subject is wrong. As Director of ARPA at the time, I can tell
you our intent. The ARPAnet was not started to create a Command and
Control System that would survive a nuclear attack, as many now claim.
As we can see from the above statements, what happened was that in
the telling and the retelling of why the Internet was invented, facts
became obscured, lost, and added, and we forget why the Internet was
invented. The story of how the Internet was invented to enable access to
supercomputers evolved into the myth that the Internet was invented to
enable the United States to survive a nuclear attack.
The less glamorous truth is that the Internet was funded and built to
let mathematical physicists solve their most computation-intensive
problems. The Internet was invented to allow computational scientists to
access and use supercomputers from remote locations. In the words of the
former director of ARPA:
The ARPAnet came out of our frustration that there were
only a limited number of large, powerful research computers in the
country, and that many research investigators who should have access
to them were geographically separated from them.
What is the
essential difference between a supercomputer and the Internet?
In terms of
physical size, a supercomputer resides within a room, while the Internet
encircles the entire Earth. But the driving force behind the Internet
has been the supercomputer. Eighty years ago, the 64,000 human computer
proposed by Lewis Richardson is what, in modern parlance, will be called
a human supercomputer that is configured as a hyperball. Thirty-five
years ago, the supercomputer was the driving force that motivated the
U.S. government to provide seed funding for the Internet. Fifteen years
ago, the national supercomputer centers were the driving force that
helped the Internet take off. I believe that the grid (i.e. the
supercomputer of tomorrow) will be the driving force behind the
Internet2 is the name of the next-generation Internet. Internet3 (or
something similar) will be the name of the next-next-generation
Internet. Perhaps, we will also eventually have Internet4, 5, 6 and ten.
In 100 years, by the time we arrive, at Internet10, the supercomputer
and Internet will converge to become one entity. The computer, as we
know it today, will become obsolete. Instead, we will be computing
without computers in our homes and offices. The Internet, as we know it
today, will also become obsolete. Instead, we will be sending tmail
(telepathic mail) without email. Tmail which will be a person to person
communication will replace email which is a computer to computer
I personally coined the words "InternetX" and "SuperBrain" and used
them to describe the most advanced form of Internet that we may have
ten-generations from now and beyond. I interchangeably use the words
"InternetX" and "SuperBrain."
"InternetX" or SuperBrain be like?
or SuperBrain will remain the same size as today's Internet. The
Internet is an electronic system that is literally as large as the whole
Earth. It is a huge electronic tablecloth that we have placed over the
When an object is ten thousand miles in diameter, it is good to step
outside and look at that object. Only in that way can we see the big
picture and understand the total object. It’s sort of like being on an
Apollo moonshot and viewing the Earth from outer space.
Therefore, we will gain a clearer understanding of the Internet if we
observe it from another planet.
Trying to understand the scope of the Internet while standing on the
Earth reminds me of the parable of the nine blind men and an elephant
where each blind man based his descriptions of the elephant on a
generalization of his sensory perceptions.
The first blind man touched the elephant's knee and cried that the
elephant is like a tree. The second blind man touched the tail and
argued that it was like a rope. And so on until there were nine
different pictures of an elephant.
The most popular software tools on the Internet are email and the
World Wide Web. As a result, most people cannot explain the difference
between the Web with the Net. Like the nine blind men, people use the
Web and then generalize and assume that the Web and the Net are the
similar. The Internet (Net) is a computer network while the World Wide
Web (Web) is a document network (i.e. system of interlinked documents).
The Internet is a machine and the Web is a document within that machine.
As an illustration, your letter residing on your personal computer is a
portion of your entire computer. Similarly, the Web (document network)
is a portion of the Net (computer network).
Because the fiber-optic network underneath the Internet is physically
10,000 miles wide and metaphorically speaking is like an elephant, it is
difficult to find two people who will agree on the best definition of
To those of us standing on the Earth, the Internet is a tool for
sending email messages and surfing the World Wide Web to gather
However, to an alien from outer space, the Internet will be seen as
millions of interconnected computing and communicating nodes. The alien
will see the Internet as a spherical object as large as the entire
Earth. That “object” will be seen as transmitting and receiving data as
a single entity.
Why do you
believe that the Internet will evolve into a SuperBrain?
"bandwith" describes the rate at which two computers can exchange
information. Because we project the bandwidth to grow exponentially, the
Internet will evolve and emulate a single machine that is more powerful,
faster and more intelligent than what we have today.
The Internet will evolve into a superbrain because the computers at
each node will be a zillion times more powerful. And the communication
between nodes will also be a zillion times faster. Perhaps, each node
might be a zillion times more intelligent.
When the Internet becomes a zillion times more powerful faster and
more intelligent: Something amazing and rather weird will then happen.
The computer as we know it today will have become obsolete. Instead, we
will be computing without computers in our homes and offices.
I believe that in the 22nd century a teacher will be explaining to
her students: "In the 21st century people had computers in their homes
and offices. When grid and on-demand computing was introduced all
desktops and laptops were tossed away. The computer, in effect,
disappeared into the Internet."
I call the future generation Internet "InternetX" or SuperBrain.
Something weirder will also happen at the same time. The Internet, as
we know it today, will become obsolete. Even email, will become
obsolete. Instead, we will be communicating by t-mail or telepathic
clarify your prediction that the Internet will disappear into a
sense. The SuperBrain is closer to a computer than it is to the
Internet. The Internet will disappear into the universal computer which
by itself will literally be as large as the Earth.
A universal computer that is as large as the whole world is not mere
science fiction. We have already taken the first embryonic step to build
one. That step is called grid, utility or on-demand computing. The
United States, the United Kingdom, and a dozen nations have already
committed billions of dollars to develop grid computing.
What is the
difference between the grid computing, supercomputing and the use of the
the grid will close the gap between the supercomputer and the Internet.
It is a new technology that lies at the halfway point between the
supercomputer and the Internet.
Thirty years ago the driving force behind the Internet was the
supercomputer. In the next thirty years the grid will remain the driving
force behind the next-generation Internet.
The grid will enable us to do things that we now consider impossible.
It will enable unique forms of human interaction. For instance, the grid
will take videoconferencing to the tele-immersion level in which a
person in Africa will have the illusion of sleeping on the same bed with
another person in the United States. Tele-immersion will also enable
remote theater rehearshals between an artist and his remote band on the
same virtual stage. Perhaps, business travel and face-to-face meetings
may become obsolete for most purposes.
In As You Like It playwright William Shakespeare wrote, "All
the world is a stage and all the men and women merely players."
The grid in the next thirty years will redefine the word "stage."
Today, Femi Kuti and Janet Jackson can only sing a live duet by
appearing on the same physical stage. With the grid, we can imagine Femi
Kuti, in Lagos, and Janet Jackson, in Los Angeles, both singing a live
duet on a digital stage. The world will become their virtual digital
The grid is a hybrid of the supercomputer and the Internet.
Supercomputing is next-generation computing. Internet2 is
the supercomputer and the Internet be 1000 years from today?
This is a
very theoretical question. In 1000 years, I believe that the Internet
will remain a spherical network the size of the Earth. However, because
it could easily be a zillion times more powerful, faster, and more
intelligent, I believe that in 1000 years the Internet will evolve into
a SuperBrain the size of the whole world and possibly beyond.
It has been recently demonstrated that disabled persons can use
bionic brain implants to control the cursor on a computer screen. I
believe that bionic brain implants will be feasible in a few decades
which then will enable us to communicate by thought power. "Please turn
off the light," you might silently say as you leave your house.
Without realizing what we are doing, we are redesigning ourselves.
Our compelling desire to redesign ourselves is deep-seated as a result
of the basic creative forces that make us human, and they will remain
so. We have embarked on a self-propelled evolution in which we are both
the creator and the created. Isn’t that a bit scary, especially if we
take a wrong turn and the solution becomes the problem?
Already, we have imbedded our consciousness and intelligence into
computers. In a few years, we will succeed in imbedding our computers
into our brain. That is, we will succeed in imbedding inanimate
intelligence into animate intelligence and living beings. Frankly, the
question is no longer "can we?" It is: "should we?"
What will be the results and consequences? One thing that is certain
is that technology and biology will merge. Your next-door neighbor could
be a cyborg, a man-made alien or a human with technology as part of her
body. Can a 100 percent flesh-bodied human marry a not-so humanoid
cyborgs with artificial mind?
One thing is certain: We are re-designing ourselves as we wish we
were and as we hope to be but not as mother nature wanted us to become.
The journey will both exciting and amazing.
As I explained earlier, computers could become obsolete and disappear
into the Internet. Hence the computers that we want to imbed into our
brains could eventually disappear into the Internet.
That change implies that our minds and thoughts could also disappear
into the Internet.
Thus the Internet could unify the thoughts of all humanity.
Unification implies that we will become one people with one voice,
one will, one soul, and one culture.
Why do you
disagree with the statement that the Internet was invented in the 1980s?
popular myths and misconceptions about the origin of the Internet. The
most popular of these myths includes the argument that software such as
communication protocols, email, the Web and graphic browsers gave birth
to the Internet.
I disagree. Software cannot give birth to the hardware that it runs
on. The Windows Operating System did not give birth to the PC. It was
the PC that gave birth to the Windows Operating System.
Similarly, it is the Internet that gave birth to communication
protocols, email, the Web, and graphic browsers. Thosesoftware were
merely practical inventions that helped bring the Internet to the
In fact, the technology was in the air for several decades. It was
the email and the Web that helped bring the Internet down to Earth.
this advanced technology leading us to?
It is part
of humanity's collective journey toward self-discovery. It is a journey
that will help us understand who and what we are and maybe decide where
we want to go and want to be in the future.
The theory of evolution taught us that we evolved from lower order
primates. SuperBrain will help us understand that all animals and plants
collectively existed as one Super Being.
I believe that we will eventually understand that we are not human
beings that exist separately from other beings. Instead, we may come to
believe that we are small and separate beings that exist within a Super
If we incorporate ideas from the theory of evolution, we may infer
that this Super Being has been undergoing self-directed evolution since
life first appeared on planet Earth. It is a self-directed evolution
toward the direction of greater human complexity. Such self-directed
evolution that has resulted in higher collective intelligence.
Super Being is a coherent and self-organizing network of all living
biological entities, which possesseS a unique intelligence that is above
and beyond the sum of intelligences of the separate living entities. The
big idea is not that we existed individually but that we evolved
collectively as one Super Being.
Put differently, the properties of coherence, self-organization and
interaction are what has enabled the species to synergically form a
Super Being with an intellect that is above and beyond the sum of the
intellect of all the animals and plants on Earth. Since none of these
species can exist independently, we do then exist as One Being.
claiming that humanity exists as One Being?
claiming more than that. I am claiming that animals and plants are not
distinct beings. I am claiming that all the species co-exist, interact
and learn from each other.
The Gaia hypothesis argues that the Earth is a living planet. An
alien visitor watching our Earth from the moon will observe a zillion
(animal and plant) species that are dependent and interacting with each
other with each swimming within the atmosphere, oceans or sub-surface
I am adding another dimension to the Gaia hypothesis, namely, that
all living things are inextricably connected and work together as a
single entity to ensure survival of all living things as a Unified
Being. I am not merely directly connected to my father, brother, and
son. I am also indirectly connected to every person, animal and plant.
We are all one being -- A Super Being.
I began my journey by studying the interconnectedness between
millions of computers configured around the Earth. I learned that
interconnected computers do emulate one supercomputer. I then inferred
that we could use that knowledge as a metaphor for living entities,
which we also instinctively know are interconnected.
Therefore, I have inferred that interconnected animals and plants do
emulate one Super Being. This ties in with the essence of my scientific
discovery in which I utilized 65,536 weak processor to emulate one Super
Processor which, in turn, drove one supercomputer.
Being the equivalent to theological god?
I said a
Super Being, not a Supreme Being. I am not talking of the God that
transcends space, time and all things physical.
I am not talking about the theological God described in the Bible or
In fact, I am not talking about the existence of an ultra Supreme
Being who is omniscient and omnipotent. The term Super Being exists in a
biological sense while the Supreme Being exists in the theological
realm. Therefore, the acceptance of my theory will be based on reason,
I experienced one lesson that was deeper and transcended computing.
It was an epiphany and a personal Damascus experience. On the road to
Damascus, Paul was struck blind, Jesus appeared to him and he converted
to christianity. On my search for new knowledge about supercomputers, I
made a discovery that changed the way I looked at myself, humanity, and
the Supreme Being or what we call God. The lesson was that I set out to
reinvent the supercomputer and along the way I discovered a Super Being.
your prediction for the next 10,000 years?
If you could
travel 10,000 years into the future, you will discover a strange world.
It is a world that I believe will be influenced by our on-going
research efforts to implant bionic brains into our human brain.
If we can replace one percent of the human brain in the next 100
years, then at that rate we may be able to replace the entire brain in
If we can replicate the entire brain, we can download it into the
SuperBrain. And if we can download the human brain into the SuperBrain,
our descendants will merely exist as pure thoughts.
Our descendants will have achieved digital immortality in 10,000
What is the
difference between your HyperBall and the decentralized network?
In the 1970s, the United States funded the development of
decentralized and distributed networks that could improve military
command and control. My HyperBall is both decentralized and distributed
but was originally inspired by global weather forecasting.
My effort to
understand how to use 64,000 computers that are evenly distributed
around Earth to forecast the weather required that I tessellate the
atmosphere into 64,000 subregions. That was how I invented the HyperBall
network. Therefore, my HyperBall was inspired by the 1922 book by Lewis
Richardson called Weather Prediction by Numerical Process.
Excerpts from Richardson's book reads
"It took me the best part of six weeks to draw up the
computing forms and to work out the new distribution in two vertical
columns for the first time. My office was a heap of hay in a cold rest
billet. With practice the work of an average computer might go perhaps
ten times faster. If the time-step were 3 hours, then 32 individuals
could just compute two pints so as to keep pace with the weather, if
we allow nothing for the very great gain in speed which is invariably
noticed when a complicated operation is divided up into simpler parts,
upon which individuals specialize. If the co-ordinate chequer were 200
km square in plan, there would be 3200 columns on the complete map of
the globe. In the tropics the weather is often foreknown, so that we
may say 2000 active columns. So that 32 x 2000 = 64,000 computers
would be needed to race the weather for the whole globe. That is a
staggering figure. Perhaps in some years' time it may be possible to
report a simplification of the process. But in any case, the
organization indicated is a central forecast-factory for the whole
globe, or for portions extending to boundaries where the weather is
steady, with individual computers specializing on the separate
equations. Let us hope for their sakes that they are moved on from
time to time to new operations."
The grid is
the "next big thing" in computing. In theory, the grid will make it
feasible to tap 65,536 computers distributed around the world to process
seismic data. In that sense, the grid will evolve into a universal
supercomputer as large as the earth.
In practice, the grid is more loosely-coupled than clusters, and
comprises of heterogeneous computing nodes. Programming thousands of
grid nodes that are linked together is easy. I guarantee you that it
will be impossible to extract good performance from heterogeneous nodes.
The engine (physics and partial differential equations) that drives
seismic and reservoir simulators is tightly-coupled and defined over
millions of grid points. Because the grid is heterogeneous, the latter
cannot be harnessed to compute and communicate simultaneously. The grid
computing model cannot be effectively utilized for seismic and reservoir
simulations and hundreds of similar computation-intensive problems.
will converge to a shape topologically equivalent to my HyperBall
network shown above.
you working on now?
I never left where I began 30 years ago - namely, an
international network of 64 binary thousand (1,024)
computing nodes interconnected as an earth-sized, HyperBall-shaped,
universal supercomputer, otherwise known as the Internet. My project
evolved from an earth-sized supercomputer to a supercomputer the size of
a car. Now, I am back to an earth-sized grid supercomputer. Thirty years
later, I understand what poet T.S. Elliott meant when he wrote: “We must
not cease from exploration. The end of all our exploring will be to
arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time.”
Since we have reinvented supercomputers to incorporate thousands of
processing nodes, my emphasis has shifted from parallel to autonomic
computers that can run themselves - doing so by utilizing an
interconnect that is self-managing, self-aware, self-healing and
A self-managing computer can run 24/7 for as long as a decade. (This
will create unemployment among information technology workers.)
A self-aware computer knows itself and can automatically heal itself
by reconfiguring its network to bypass malfunctioning components.
A self-healing computer can discover and diagnose its illness, and
can also act as its own doctor.
A self-protecting computer can detect failures and prevent attacks
I drew inspirations from botanical trees to design a phytocomputer
with an interconnect that emulates the branching patterns of trees.
On the Internet, smart computers are connected to dumb networks. In
the future, smarter computers will be connected to smart (i.e.
tessellation that inspired my HyperBall network.
At the Gordon
Bell Prize award ceremony, Cathedral Hill Hotel, San Franscisco, CA.
February 28, 1990.
Updates by the Webmistress to get Emeagwali's perspective on the history of
"History of the Internet" contains a detailed description of Emeagwali's
contributions to the Internet. Also read the lengthy article entitled It Was the Audacity of My
- History of the Internet, by Christos J. P. Moschovitis, et
born in Nigeria (Africa) in 1954. Due to civil war in his country, he was
forced to drop out of school at the age of 12 and was conscripted into the
Biafran army at the age of 14. After the war ended, he completed his high
school equivalency by self-study and came to the United States on a
scholarship in March 1974. Emeagwali won the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize, which
has been called "supercomputing's Nobel Prize," for inventing a formula
that allows computers to perform fast computations - a discovery that
inspired the reinvention of supercomputers. He was extolled by the then
U.S. President Bill Clinton as "one of the great minds of the Information
Age” and described by CNN as "a Father of the Internet." Emeagwali
is the most searched-for modern scientist on the Internet (emeagwali.com).
Click on emeagwali.com for more information.