July 12, 2017

IBM and the Supercomputer – The Realities of the ‘50s Sci-fi Movies May Be Coming to Fruition

By Kayla Matthews

The Supercomputer

In the 1950s, there were a ton of space movies. With the Space Race heating up between the U.S. and Russia, fears were at an all-time high.

Some of these movies were full of hope, while others were full of ominous warnings. In these films, the characters almost always used a spaceship. And, often, the ship was run by a fantasy version of an extremely intelligent computer.

Now, the realities of these ‘50s sci-fi movies may be coming to fruition.

The Union of Forces

A few weeks ago, the U.S. Air Force and computer juggernaut IBM announced that they will be teaming up to create a supercomputer. This sounds amazing, but what does a supercomputer do?

First of all, a supercomputer runs at the highest rate and efficiency that’s currently possible. Supercomputers are expensive and sophisticated machines capable of handling massive amounts of data.

It’s impressive enough to think about a computer with that much “brainpower,” but the Air Force-IBM supercomputer will eventually grow to become as complex as a human brain.

In 2011, a group of scientists created a supercomputer that mimicked how the human brain thinks. It all began with encoding the equivalent of 256 neurons within the supercomputer. But, ever since then, the artificial brain has been expanding its neural network.

From 256 neurons, the “artificial brain” now sits at an astounding 64 million-neuron equivalent. Not only that, but there are also 16 million “synapses” in this supercomputer.

To put it simply, this supercomputer is currently running at 10 percent of the human brain. And it will be up to the equivalent of a human by 2025.

How the Supercomputer Works

The supercomputer can be broken down into a couple of different sections. First, the entire brain runs on a 64-chip array from IBM. This means all the information being gathered is processed and powered by these 64 chips. These chips come from IBM’s TrueNorth Neurosynaptic System, which is based on the structure of the human brain.

The TrueNorth Neurosynaptic Network System focuses on pattern recognition and sensory information — two factors that separate types of artificial intelligence. Pattern recognition, in particular, is critical. The supercomputer will also be able to process the symbolism of images, audio and visual input in real time. The ability to quickly process and categorize stimuli will make this computer function like a flesh-and-blood brain.

Beyond that, IBM hopes to merge this system with a traditional, logic-based computer. Combining these two systems is like connecting the left and right sides of the brain, and that’s what makes this supercomputer so fascinating and exciting.

To further boggle the mind, this supercomputer, which currently is creating the power of 64 million neurons, runs on the force of a single light bulb.

While thinking about this amazing supercomputer, you should also know about the safety precautions needed when dealing with it. As with any other kind of militaristic technology, it’s important to have a backup plan if a portion of the supercomputer stops working. As the supercomputer functions at a ridiculously high level of intelligence and awareness, safety for the supercomputer is a top priority.

How Will It Be Used?

What people now should think about is how this technology will be employed. With the IBM-Air Force partnership, a military purpose is driving development. Mainly, this supercomputer will be able to help make tactical decisions while in tense and decision-laden situations.

The military is not new to advanced technology. For example, U.S. forces have quickly adopted augmented and virtual reality to help train our soldiers by visually walking troops through highly realistic mission scenarios. Cutting-edge technology and the safest backup plans can be the difference between life and death for the men and women in the armed forces.

Conclusion

The future is here. It’s taken decades, but artificial intelligence is finally on the horizon in a big way. Keep your eyes and ears open, because technology will only continue to expand and improve.

By Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a technology writer dedicated to exploring issues related to the Cloud, Cybersecurity, IoT and the use of tech in daily life.

Her work can be seen on such sites as The Huffington Post, MakeUseOf, and VMBlog. You can read more from Kayla on her personal website.
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