You expect your phone to work and continue working right? And if it breaks, you don't lose much, maybe some photos and some messages
(this is definitely an exaggeration). Well what if your phone could warn you when something is about to break or go wrong? That would save a lot of hassle, but in the case of mission-critical technology, this functionality could mean saving lives.
What is DHEP?
The Distributed Hardware Evolution Project (DHEP) is a BOINC volunteer scientific computing project that started as a beta version on the 11th of May 2018 and allows users to run genetic algorithms that attempt to develop hardware logic circuits that perform their own error detection.
DHEP is a project run by the University of Sussex and bring an intriguing and real-world BOINC project that can possibly become the infrastructure for the future of technology, saving the lives of many.
How does it work?
I found it hard to find information on this topic just over the internet but in general terms, a self-checking circuit is a device that consists of regular computer logic gates and completes a particular task but also contains extra logic to ensure the internal logic of the device is correct and producing accurate output.
This functionality is almost essential to the operation of mission critical systems such as medical equipment, aeronautics and even vehicle anti-lock braking systems. These technologies are meant to save or protect lives so they must be 100% functional when in-use, and self-checking circuits provide this peace-of-mind.
A genetic algorithm is a set of instructions that defines how a system of variables evolve. In layman terms, it's essentially how humans evolve, small changes to our DNA which accumulate over-time to overcome certain challenges in our external environment.
This process is extremely slow as it is basically trial and error being performed over and over again, but with the use of computers, we can speed it up phenomenally in a virtual environment. Eventually there will be enough mutations and conjoinment of the fittest "genes" such that the problem is solved or almost fully solved.
The application of genetic algorithms have been historically notable for solving optimisation problems such as the travelling salesman problem or even practical stuff, for example, the wiki page for genetic algorithms shows-off a radio antenna developed by a computer to receive the most amount of radio waves possible:
Bringing it Together
So DHEP is evolving hardware? Yes!
They are using genetic algorithms to perform mass trial and error in order to discover circuitry that is self-checking. In reality, they use a competitive-style genetic algorithm to evoke evolution of circuit designs.
DHEP claims that by computing the project, you will "Host an island with a population of circuits struggling for survival in a hostile online world. During your PCs idle time individuals from this population will evolve through artificial evolution in a process of survival of the meekest into circuits with Concurrent Error Detection (CED) and will compete with those hosted on other PCs by migrating to and from them."
DHEP is currently in their beta stage so they don't have much to show for so far, but they sure do have some interesting statistics on their website.
The above is a topological map of the effectiveness of certain generations of the genetic algorithm based on different versions that people have (the darker the better). Source
There is also a very interesting visualisation of the "genes" of each particular generation as shown below, the data is encoded into an image based on certain characteristics of the genes:
DHEP Launch Badge Competition
Like most BOINC projects, DHEP also wants to give their users badges for computing, but they are asking from the community to help out in making them. Badges are usually tiered as shown above so they occur in a fashion such as good, better, even better, spectacular, etc. The following will be my submission for the competition and hopefully it will inspire others to also tag along and help out this new BOINC project!
DHEP likes to use the word "island" to describe their competing hardware configurations so I decided to incorporate a physical island into the badge. The box that you see there is supposed to resemble what we call in computing as a "black box", this is considering that we don't know exactly what each configured version of hardware is doing or how it works but we do know that they compete and some win and some lose.
Nothing much extra but a rank above the first badge, populating the island with more genetic by-products.
Now we are expanding! Here is what I call the "global island", we've made too many hardware devices that they've become sentient and taken over the world!
But in all seriousness, this image is also meant to depict the community we find ourselves in while computing these projects, because we are all in it together to make this world a better place!
Here is what I call the "solar island". You can probably start to pick up on the theme I'm going for by now. The slow shift into more secluded and widespread locations is a metaphor for the endeavours that science leads us to.
Again, a rank above badge 5, we move to the "universal island".
This is going a little overboard now as we find ourselves in the "4-Dimensional island".
How to Join DHEP
Download the BOINC client from the official website (select the one without Virtualbox)
Open your BOINC manager and select
View > Advanced View...
Tools > Add Project...
Select from the list "Distributed Hardware Evolution Project" or in the Project URL box below, copy and paste the following:
http://dhep.ga/boinc/and click next.
Follow the prompts to make an account and start computing!
You should then see some tasks pop up like so: