August 17, 2010

The Point of Singularity is Near

Nicole Hemsoth

Artifical intelligence expert and author Ray Kurzweil defines the point of "singularity" as the moment when computers surpass human intelligence, and posits that supercomputers networked via a cloud architecture will be able to simulate the human brain.

Artificial intelligence expert and author of The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil, suggests that reverse engineering of the human brain so that scientists will be capable of simulating its processes will be possible by 2020. An article covering the feats of the future via a review of select portions of the book stated, “It would be the first step towards creating machines that are more powerful than the human brain…These supercomputers could be networked into a cloud computing architecture to amplify their processing capabilities. Meanwhile, algorithms that power them could become more intelligent.”

This massive machine of cloud-linked supercomputers would form one super-machine that would have capabilities far superior to anything we’ve seen to date and most importantly, something that surpasses the power of the human brain. In Kurzwell’s view, it is this point of outmatched intelligence that is the moment of “singularity.”

As it stands there are no supercomputers, no matter how they’re networked, that would have the capability of running such a complicated simulation. As IBM researcher Dharmendra Modha stated in an interview with Gizmodo, researchers “would require a machine with a computational capacity of at least 36.8 petaflops and a memory capacity of 3.2 petabytes—a scale that supercomputer technology isn’t expected to hit for at least three years.”

It’s worth noting that Kurzweil is not chasing the vision of one great supercomputer to handle the enormous burden of running such a software-based simulation, but rather on a network of such computers, joined together in a cloud-like architecture. A grid or cloud to tackle the challenge could make the resources needed available sooner than one great machine—and perhaps sooner than 2020.

Full story at Gizmodo

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