Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Neural Net

Grain Elevators in Rockwell City, Iowa
All of Iowa is a giant solar energy plant. The entire state is covered with fields of corn. In every county there is a big, stone county courthouse and a giant grain elevator with half a dozen concrete silos. Next to every grain elevator there is a railroad siding. So, the entire state plants in the spring, lets the corn grow all summer, harvests it in the fall and stores it in the grain elevators. Then the trains start collecting the corn and hauling it off to the feed lots and the ethanol distillers and the bakeries. Actually, they probably never stop. Trains are running constantly collecting grain from one elevator after another. It takes them all year to drain all the elevators and then the whole cycle starts again.

Calhoun County Courthouse
Yes, I know it is obscured by trees. I took this picture because of the sizable radio antennas.
Look at all that infrastructure devoted to the collection, storage and distribution of one crop. All the grain elevators, railroad tracks, and railroad cars. That is some serious capital investment, with very thing margins. The only way it will pay off is if you keep using the same equipment over and over again, year after year.

Railroad lines in Northwest Iowa between Des Moines and Sioux City
Look at all the little towns scattered across Iowa. They are small because they don't need a lot of people to take care of the business of corn production. I suspect half of the people are there to provide a modicum of civilization to these remote outposts. Every town needs teachers and a barber and a sheriff. A grocer and a mechanic would not amiss. I don't know if every town needs a doctor, but every county surely does.

Colorful clouds after rain shower at one of the gatherings.
My father-in-law passed away a couple of weeks ago and I flew to Iowa to attend the service. There were several gatherings to commemorate the event. About a hundred people attended each one. Some were formal and subdued, others were more relaxed and even a bit festive. Quite a few people were from out of town, most of whom had grown up here and hadn't seen each other for years, so there was a lot of catching up to do.

At all of these gatherings there was great deal of chit-chat. Some people would call it talking, but talking to me is communicating information, and to me, chit-chat doesn't qualify. It is more like comforting mouth noises. Or is it?

All these people know each other, and have known each other for most of their lives. There is no real information that needs to be communicated, it's just chit-chat.

Neurons
But then I had a vision. You know how the neurons in your brain have connections to several other neurons? Information that is passed from one neuron to another is not a complete thought, it's just an ill-defined fragment. Only by having zillions of neurons operating in parallel are we able to think, reason and act.

A similar thing is going on at these social gatherings. It's like a hive mind thinking. Little bits of information flow across the room, information that has a different value for each individual, but by passing it repeatedly and in parallel you can be reasonable sure that it will reach those who need to know, even if you don't know who they are.

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