Massively Parallel Processing & In Search of the Aha

kinnon —  June 20, 2005 — Leave a comment

I mentioned I’d write about this last week and then read Chris Anderson’s comment here and Roy Williams comments here. Synchronicity is always wonderful. (After his scary points about the end of oil, Roy comments – "My goal today is only to open the eyes of your imagination. There are lots of things to think that aren’t being properly thunk, but if we all pitch in, we might be able to think them all.")

First, what’s massively parallel processing – it’s using virtually off the shelf computers to create a supercomputer – like the Virginia Tech G5 based supercomputer. Massively parallel suggests many computers working on portions of a problem.

And what’s the "Aha" – it’s the point where we "crack the code" – we find the solution.

Ray Kurzweil posits that it will only be molecular level based computers that will be able to compete with the incredible processing power of the human brain – and those computers are not far off (2020 perhaps). At this point, the brain is still the most effective computing device available. But how effectively are we using it?

Let me chase a rabbit for a moment.

Every week, I get together with more than a thousand people of similar interests to me. We are together for upwards of two hours. A portion of our time at the venue is spent in a form of exercise – we are standing (sometimes with our hands raised above the level of our hearts), some of us are moving and all of us are using our lungs to power our vocal chords to produce significant levels of sound energy. For more than half of the time, however, we sit passively as we are asked to receive and store information. (Retention rates are estimated at between 10 – 25% in a passive learning experience.)

Mid-week, many of us will gather together again in the same venue, for more of the same. Some of us will also gather together in smaller groups in people’s homes where we will discuss our lives and possibly talk about what we’ve learned early in the week. (The retention level goes up in these situations.)

But few, if any of us are being asked to harness the incredibly powerful processing of our brains to solve internal, local or even global issues. Each week, more parallel processing power gathers together than Virginia Tech’s Supercomputer in this one location (and these kinds of gatherings happen around the globe in clusters of a few people, up to 10’s of thousands of people). And rather than find ways to harness the power of the gathering – we have more "useful" information stuffed into us, in the hopes that our lives will be bettered and we will be better people.

Obviously, I’m talking about the church – this incredible gathering of people who are empowered by the Spirit of God to do things beyond our wildest imaginations. The greatest "Aha’s" in the world should come from the church – in the arts, in social justice, in literature, in media, in medicine – the list is endless.

The tale will be told in how we harness this incredible, massively parallel processing power fed by the very creator of the Universe to accomplish more than we can imagine. And how will we do it, you ask?

I believe the social networking software being developed for the net – whether in communities like LinkedIn, MeetUp or others, the Instant Outlining Tool that Dave Winer is developing, Wikis or the technologies like Skype, AIM, iChatAV and MSN that let us interact with our "neighbours" half a world away – will play a vitally important role in allowing us to begin to harness the Power of Us.

The nearly 1 billion people online worldwide — along with their shared knowledge, social contacts, online reputations, computing power, and more — are rapidly becoming a collective force of unprecedented power. For the first time in human history, mass cooperation across time and space is suddenly economical. "There’s a fundamental shift in power happening," says Pierre M. Omidyar, founder and chairman of the online marketplace eBay Inc. (EBAY ) "Everywhere, people are getting together and, using the Internet, disrupting whatever activities they’re involved in."

Enough of the passively parallel unused processing power – let’s harness the massively parallel processing power of every gathering of Spirit empowered people – and see what God can do in our midst. It will be a wild, wonderfilled ride – and you won’t be able to wipe the grins from our faces!



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

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