Balancing error and dissipation in computing
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Balancing error and dissipation in computing

  • Author(s): Riechers, Paul M
  • Boyd, Alexander B
  • Wimsatt, Gregory W
  • Crutchfield, James P
  • et al.
Abstract

Modern digital electronics support remarkably reliable computing, especially given the challenge of controlling nanoscale logical components that interact in fluctuating environments. However, we demonstrate that the high-reliability limit is subject to a fundamental error-energy-efficiency tradeoff that arises from time-symmetric control: Requiring a low probability of error causes energy consumption to diverge as logarithm of the inverse error rate for nonreciprocal logical transitions. The reciprocity (self-invertibility) of a computation is a stricter condition for thermodynamic efficiency than logical reversibility (invertibility), the latter being the root of Landauer's work bound on erasing information. Beyond engineered computation, the results identify a generic error-dissipation tradeoff in steady-state transformations of genetic information carried out by biological organisms. The lesson is that computation under time-symmetric control cannot reach, and is often far above, the Landauer limit. In this way, time-asymmetry becomes a design principle for thermodynamically efficient computing.

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