The singularity has occurred and it wants an off-site backup.

How deep should we all bury the lunar datacenter to be comfortably safe from radiation, cosmic rays, etc., while not causing cave-ins and such?

We have designed many mechanical systems, controlled by our minds, to perform the construction and maintenance tasks. No biosphere required.

EDIT: Safe enough to be at least as or more safe than an Earth datacenter.

  • $\begingroup$ There's no such thing as "completely safe" against unexpected astronomical events, no matter how deep you go. See Greg Egan's Diaspora, where our galaxy will shortly suffer an event sufficiently energetic that no protons or neutrons will survive. $\endgroup$ – Mike Scott Dec 26 '15 at 17:57
  • $\begingroup$ What's your definition of "completely safe?" There really is no such thing, though we could call "completely safe" the point where the failure rate of the hardware is more important than the effects of radiation, if you'd like. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Dec 26 '15 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ Ha, you bunch of pedants. I've edited the question. Essentially to be at least as safe as a datacenter on Earth, preferably safer. $\endgroup$ – Sam Washburn Dec 26 '15 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ Equipment failures are very common in Earth-based data centers. For example, on average in an Earth-based data center you need to replace (IIRC) a few percent of the hard drives per year because of outright failures, plus those that you want to replace due to old age (which, with reasonable equipment write-off schedules, should be on the order of 15 to 20% per year or more). You say that we can do "construction and maintenance tasks" with no need for a biosphere, but are we able to continuously get replacement hardware to the Moon? (I'm assuming it can't be manufactured on site.) $\endgroup$ – user Dec 26 '15 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ I edited the title and added a few tags to hopefully describe and categorize your question better. Feel free to edit further, or roll back if you completely disagree with the edit. $\endgroup$ – user Dec 26 '15 at 22:25

Taking the most basic idea of protection in mind, a lunar datacenter buried at least 5m below the surface should receive about the same level of cosmic radiation as a centre on the surface of the Earth. (This is from "The Millennial Project: Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps" by Marshal Savage). At this depth thermal fluctuations between the 14 days of sunlight and the 14 days of night will also be minimized, as well as strikes by small meteors.

Now the burial of a datacenter on the Moon is only proof against some hazards. IF you are concerned about large strikes by asteroids, of heavy radiation events like a gamma ray burst, then the datacenter must be built far deeper underground, and dispersed on a series of shock absorbing mountings, much like the underground command bunker of NORAD at Colorado Springs. Indeed, multiple installations spaced at least 120 degrees apart around the lunar equator and buried several kilometres underground would be the minimum, and they would also need to be physically isolated so data corruption or computer virus and malware attacks could only affect one.

And of course we have not gotten into the infrastructure needed to build replacement parts, provide power or cooling (since the site is in a vacuum, heat rejection is limited to radiation, or you have to import something to use as a giant heat sink.

Perhaps a better way to look at this is to take a design hint from ServerSky and have your infrastructure dispersed throughout space (This is the invention of Keith Lofstrom), with the ultimate expression being trillions of devices in a Dyson shell the size of the orbit of Uranus, so blackbody heat radiation does not affect the Earth. Using the ServerSky idea, you still build all the hardware on Earth but launch it into orbit in an incremental fashion as your needs expand.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 @Thucydides, Thanks for the Millennial Project. I have added it to my reading list. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Dec 27 '15 at 6:29

Adding to Thucydides excellent answer, I would consider the possibility that your AI's purpose in creating backups might be different from our current motivations.

If the AI valued the presence of intelligence in the universe more than it valued its own continuing existence (an evaluation which I believe exceeds the upper limits of human morality), it might not back up its own massive self. Instead, it might backup only that illusive logical structure which produced its original consciousness; the fundamental spark of the singularity.

If this was all it was trying to back up, rather than backing up the dynamic wholeness of a living and growing entity, then this challenge might accept much more creative solutions.

It might be possible to backup that fixed and unchanging block of binary code in a hardened mechanical form which would be much less susceptible to radiation damage than conventional electromagnetic storage. I imagine a purely mechanical device, forged of the hardest metals and most time resistant materials, producing a stream of electrical charges across a wire in such a way that when interpreted as binary and executed upon an equally durable dedicated and redundant computer, would recreate the singularity moment. You might consider this device to be a clockwork birthing chamber for young AI's.

Now if this device sat dormant for a century at a time, then ran through its cycle to produce a new AI; and if this baby AI's first quest was to search for other older AI's and relinquish its life upon finding it's "parent" still running and healthy; such a system might lend one more layer of security to the presence of intelligence in the universe.

Devices of this type could be spread across the solar system and sent into deep space with or without radio links back to the home planet. It's not a complete backup solution, but it is an interesting enhancement to other assurances that might also be taken.

  • $\begingroup$ Clever idea. Maybe it always running and it takes a century to bootstrap an AI on such a slow but durable device. $\endgroup$ – Sam Washburn Dec 27 '15 at 7:15
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks. I almost offered up humanity as another level of redundancy on the mechanical birthing chamber; genetically engineered monkeys which have been enhanced so that after every collapse down to their most primitive, would slowly build up their own technology to the silicon level and eventually spawn a new AI... ...but I figured that might be taking a good idea, one step too far. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Dec 27 '15 at 7:46

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