Researchers create crash-proof, self-repairing, inspired-by-nature computer

By Sebastian Anthony on February 14, 2013 at 11:11 am

Computer scientists at University College London have created a self-repairing computer that never crashes. This technology could find its way to into mission-critical systems that must not fail, or it could improve the overall reliability of computers in general — which is a good thing, considering how almost everything we interact with is governed by a digital computer. (See: Built to last: Computer systems that simply cannot fail.)

In a modern computer, instructions are carried out procedurally — one instruction at a time, usually in a fixed order. Your computer might give the illusion that it’s working on multiple processes at the same time (multitasking), but in actuality it’s just switching very rapidly between multiple processes. As long as the task scheduler ensures that no process is left waiting for more than a few milliseconds, you are none the wiser. This method has served us very well, but it also introduces a single point of failure — if the processor or process crashes, the house of cards usually comes tumbling down.

In nature, however, where massively parallel brains and nervous systems rule supreme, processes are distributed, decentralized, and fault-tolerant. If a single process misfires in some way — and your brain misfires a lot — then the process is simply run again, perhaps in a slightly different way. Brains and nervous systems can also self-heal, as you will surely know if you’ve ever seen someone being rehabilitated after a stroke or similar neurological event.

Read more: Researchers create crash-proof, self-repairing, inspired-by-nature computer | ExtremeTech.

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