A Chinese supercomputer just ran an AI model so complex and sophisticated that it’s comparable to the human brain.
The novel machine dealt with more than 174 trillion parameters, roughly equalling the number of synapses in the brain by some estimates, revealed a report from South China Morning Post (SCMP).
The results were showcased at the Principles and Practice of Parallel Programming 2022 hosted by the US-based Association for Computing Machinery in Seoul, South Korea.
Researchers used the latest generation, Chinese-developed, Sunway supercomputer to perform the task. Simply put, there are no other systems powerful enough to run the required model, named Bagualu or ‘alchemist’s pot’ by its developers.
The latest Sunway is as fast as the American-built Frontier supercomputer, stated the SCMP report. Frontier, which was created by the United States Department of Energy in 2022, is widely quoted as being the most powerful computer, according to Interesting Engineering.
The $600 million machine occupies an entire floor at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility in Tennessee and can reportedly perform a quintillion calculations a second.
Sunway and Frontier belong to the exascale class of supercomputers – the most intelligent systems currently in operation. “Exa” essentially means 18 zeros in this context. Exascale computers can therefore perform 1 000 000 000 000 000 000 floating point operations every a second (FLOPS) or 1exaFLOP.
For another point of reference, one of the first working examples of a supercomputer, 1996’s ASCI Red, which was tasked with helping maintain the US nuclear arsenal, is one million times slower than Sunway, clocking in at a comparatively meek 1terraFLOP.
Sunway’s specifications are impressive. Researchers say the system can perform 5.3 exaFLOPs or one billion operations a second. It sports 37 million CPU cores (four times as many as Frontier) and nine petabytes of memory – enough to store two million HD movies.
Sunway is reported to host 96 000 “semi-independent systems” called nodes. The nodes can communicate with one another at the rapid click of 23 petabytes per second.
Analysts believe Sunway will be put to work in many fields including facial recognition, autonomous driving and medical research.
In fact, at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, another Chinese supercomputer gave the world a glimpse at the potential utility of such sophisticated works of technology.
Tianhe, not to be confused with the spacecraft, designed and developed by the Tianjin-based National Supercomputing Center, was used to screen and uncover potentially life-changing medicines.