Hardware Progress

From: Dani Eder (danielravennest@yahoo.com)
Date: Fri Jun 22 2001 - 11:52:52 MDT

The latest list of the top 500 supercomputers in the
world has just been published (www.top500.org). The
sum of all 500 machines now is at 108 Tflops, which,
using Moravec's estimate, is equivalent to 1.08 human
brain power. This is a 23% increase from the previous
list published 6 months ago.

There is a nice graph of the trends at:

Note that the time for the N=500 machine to reach the
previous power of all top 500 machines is about 12
years. Using N=500 as a proxy for a machine that
an AI project can be expected to get it's hands on,
we're looking at 2013 for a 'possible singularity
date'. Another 7 years brings the N=500 machine to
the level of an average desktop PC. So if asked for
the expected date of the singularity, I would now
give a range of:

Earliest: Now (ganging up many top supercomputers
or SETI@home type distributed system)

Early: 2013 (Research AI project gets it's hands
on 100 Tflop machine)

Late: 2020 (If it takes a full neural simulation
level of computational power = 3000 Tflop)

Latest: 2027 (Full neural simulation on a PC, and
no acceleration in Moore's law until then)

On the related issue of how much will a machine cost,
I make a guess that a 'brain level' system will

- 100 Tflops CPU power
- 100 Tbytes memory
- 10,000 Tbytes storage

The storage number is larger assuming that it
represents "long term memory" which doesn't have to
be as quick to draw on as current memory.

The best bang-for-buck system you can build right
now is a 1400 MHz Athlon, which can crank about
2 Gflops. With 2 Gbyte RAM and 200 Gbyte of hard
disk, and networking hardware, you can build a
cluster at a cost of $1500 per CPU node today.
You would need 50,000 nodes today for a full system,
costing $75 million. That's a bit beyond reach.
But another 5 years should bring that down by
8-16 fold. That puts us at $5-10M system cost,
which is in the range of the hardware cost in the
computer room I'm sitting in.

(For those who wonder, it's the room where the
bulk of the software for the Space Station is
tested. I'm currently running tests on the
next upgrade to the Destiny module software.)

Dani Eder


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