World's fastest supercomputer vs. the human brain

A comparison, and watching progress in Moore's law

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Editor Bob
A supercomputer broke 10 petaflops for the first time ever last week.

That's 10 quadrillion (10,000,000,000,000,000) floating point operations per second.

It was achieved by the K supercomputer in Japan.

The human brain is estimated to operate at about 1 exaflop (that's 1,000 petaflops).

So we're about a hundredth of the way to being able to simulate an entire human brain.

If the trend in supercomputer advancement continues as it has the past 40 years, then we'll reach human-brain scale late this decade.

Attached image
For you DIYers:

If you wanted to duplicate that setup at home, you'd only need 864 racks, 88,128 processors and enough cash in your back pocket to front an annual electricity bill of $10 million a year.
So we're about a hundredth of the way to being able to simulate an entire human brain.
That's a rather disingenuous claim though isn't it, when you factor in things like still not-fully-realised speech recognition and artificial intelligence (admit the two are closely intertwined) even when we've got the raw processor power, we'll still need to crack the algorithms that make up things like abstract thought, lateral thinking, humour, emotion etc, those things are, despite the best efforts of the Japanese, still quite a long way off.
flops = FLoating point OPerations per Second... a floating point is the decimal expansion of a number, i.e. 3.14195... it's only a unit of measurement for calculating the speed of a cluster of processors since most operations don't utilize solely intergers...
Inform me when it get's to 10 yottaflops .

10 yotta: 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (yes, 25 zero's)

Kilo, mega, giga, tera, peta, exa, zetta, yotta: Explanation prefixes
I heard this is Microsoft's base configuration for Windows 8 - and even then you'll need to turn off most of the fancy graphics effects...
Burnaby Boy
I designed Terra's cooling system rack in the late 80's. Damn sight taller than me. Now my watch has a better cooling system. I am not going anywhere with this but I did see two guys Fly Fishing in the Isar last Sunday. That will always be cool. No matter what language you speak.
Burnaby Boy
I meant The Cray Structure but in Terra's for CPU. I should write these things down.
As a Canadian I should go find the new Irish Pub. See you there.
So we're about a hundredth of the way to being able to simulate an entire human brain
No, we're a hundredth of the way to be able to do the same number of floating point operations per second as a human brain has been estimated to carry out. That's not the same as being able to simulate it. We can't even accurately simulate the nervous system of C-elegans which has around 300 neurons. The problem you state is a problem of architecture over speed.
I read that by 2050 we'd finally have enough processors (at their future speeds) to be able to match the processing power of the human brain. Of course, one doesn't foresee that the Japanese will always try to outdo these predictions by building ever more powerful supercomputers when they are not busy making the most bizarre TV shows you have ever seen!
Editor Bob
Where did you read that? I think we'll have human brain capability by 2020.

Nvidia's GK110 is due to be released Q4 this year. I forget off-hand how many flops it's capable of, but it's of the order of teraflops. It's being made with 28 nm process. Shrink that down to 11 nm, give it another few iterations of Moore's law, fill a cabinet with them, and already you're in the exascale range.

Nvidia have said they expect exascale by 2017/18. Intel have said zettascale by 2029. Human brain scale is thought to be somewhere in between.
How many football fields will be occupied by such a machine? Unless it weighs roughly 3lbs and fits into 1300 cm3 and can continue to function on resources costing ~GBP1 per day it ain't comparable. Then it also has to be able to know which way up it is and be able to move itself around, let alone do some number crunching.
Editor Bob
Such a machine will probably start off very large and get progressively smaller until it fits inside the head of a small mobile robot.
Editor Bob
Exascale in 2017

Improvements in processors from Intel, AMD and Nvidia indicate that a 1U or blade HPC server will have 7 teraflops of peak performance in 2014.

15,000 nodes would be needed for 100 petaflops.

The next generation of chips for 2017 would then be able to reach exascale performance.
I wonder how they came up with the estimate of how many flops a human brain can perform. Our brains suck at numerical calculation, compared to even the earliest computers. Our brains are built for pattern recognition. As for simulating the human brain, sure, we could probably do that now, but it would be a really slow simulation. Hours for a simulation step of milliseconds, but that's just a wild guess. Maybe they mean a real-time simulation?

Assuming the chemical and electrical states of 1 neuron can be modeled with a set of (likely strongly nonlinear) differential equations of whatever order. Then you have a system of 100 billion of these sets of equations (and determine how they are coupled). Then you determine the initial conditions of the system. Then you present the system with inputs. Voila! You've simulated the human brain! Any neurophyiscists out there want to supply me with the equations? I'll plug em into MATLAB and see what happens. Anyone care to donate some RAM?
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