I used to laugh at the elaborate calculations and stratospheric numbers you always find when reading papers about the limits of computation — as in, say, “Just how much computations per second might the entire universe theoretically support?”. It was something more than my incredulity (it involves too much hand-waving at times), it was simply indifference. So what if the universe could theoretically handle one zillion jillions to the gazillion cps? We might as well ponder how many angels might fit on the head of a pin…
I read Ray Kurzweil answer 3 weeks ago and it hasn’t stopped resounding on my head ever since:
Because computation underlies the foundations of everything we care about, from the economy to human intellect and creativity, we might well wonder: are there ultimate limits to the capacity of matter and energy to perform computation? If so, what are these limits, and how long will it take to reach them?
Our human intelligence is based on computational processes that we are learning to understand. We will ultimately multiply our intellectual powers by applying and extending the methods of human intelligence using the vastly greater capacity of nonbiological computation. So to consider the ultimate limits of computation is really to ask: what is the destiny of our civilization?
The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil (emphasis mine)