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We Won’t Be Kicking Sand in Computers’ Faces For Much Longer November 27, 2016

Posted by geoff in News.
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Ray Kurzweil, in his famous book The Singularity is Near, noted that the human brain can perform the equivalent of 10^18 floating point operations per second (= 1 exaflop). That was one of the benchmarks computers needed to reach in order support his thesis that humans and computers would interact/merge in interesting ways by 2050.  But it looks like this particular benchmark will be reached by 2020:

Japan is reportedly planning to build a 130-petaflops supercomputer costing $173 million (£131 million) that is due for completion next year.

Satoshi Sekiguchi, a director-general at Japan’s ‎National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, where the computer will be built, told Reuters: “As far as we know, there is nothing out there that is as fast.”

According to the Top 500 site listing the world’s fastest computers, the current number-crunching champ is China’s 93-petaflops Sunway TaihuLight, followed by its Tianhe-2, coming in at 34 petaflops. Japan’s most powerful system at the moment is a 13.5 petaflops machine. Overall, Japan has the fourth-largest number of supercomputers in the Top 500 listing, after the US, China, and Germany.

The UK comes in sixth; the most powerful system in the country is housed at the Met Office, and has a max performance of 6.8 petaflops.

That’s 0.13 exaflops, or 13% of the way to the exaflop goal. Of course it would need to be affordable and commonplace for it to really impact society, and there’s still plenty of work to do in other areas (algorithms, storage, throughput, brain science, etc.).

But it’s damn impressive.

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