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The “Matryoshka Brain”

Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal published a book review of Year Million, a collection of essays by 14 prominent futurists and thinkers who collectively ponder the fate of mankind, one million years hence. Suffice it to say, the thinkers were encouraged to come up with some fairly outlandish predictions – like this one from computer scientist Robert Bradbury, who predicts the creation of the “matryoshka brain”:

“Inevitably, we will leave our bodies entirely behind and evolve into radically different entities. Picture a vast shell-like form surrounding the sun and absorbing all its energy. This is called a Dyson sphere, after Freeman Dyson, the physicist who conceived of it… Now imagine a bunch of nested Dyson spheres that divert all that solar energy into information processing. Borrowing the term for Russian dolls, Mr. Bradbury calls this a ‘matrioshka’ brain.”

If you’ve never seen a real Russian matryoshka doll, they’re great fun — and you can even pick them up on Etsy these days. In Moscow, the so-called “nesting dolls” (a translation that I’ve always abhorred) are found in countless flavors and assortments that might appeal to tourists (including ones devoted to NBA basketball stars and Disney characters). The last time I was in Russia, a favorite was the Putin matryoshka – a huge Putin, which opened up to a smaller Yeltsin, which opened up to an even smaller Gorbachev, which opened up to an even smaller Brezhnev, which opened up to an even smaller Kruschchev, which opened up to an even smaller Stalin, which opened up to an even smaller Lenin…

[image: Matryoshka Doll via Etsy]


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