The Roadrunner zooms to singularity

Is the Singularity one step closer?

The Roadrunner, an American military supercomputer made by IBM and the Los Alamos National Laboratory at a cost of US$133 million has become the first machine to calculate faster than a petaflop per second. A petaflop is a measure of a computer’s processing speed and is 1015 floating point operations per second. Floating-point calculations allow encoding of long real numbers within the finite limits of precision available on computers; a floating-point number is expressed as a basic number, an exponent, and a number base (usually ten).

Roadrunner will solve problems to ensure that the US stockpile of nuclear weapons will continue to work correctly as they age. It will also work on scientific problems like climate change.

The machine is an unusual blend of chips used in consumer products and advanced parallel computing technologies. Thus there is an interaction between high-tech military/scientific computing and the consumer market, each helping the other to develop-although some are skeptical of this.

Very fast computers have potential to alter science and engineering methods by allowing interactive modeling that approximates complex physical reality.

Roadrunner consumes a massive three megawatts of power and is complex to program. Solving that complexity may allow personal computers to include microprocessor chips with multiple parallel processors. IBM is now looking toward yet faster computers as processing power increases about a thousandfold each 11 years.

Predicted by Ray Kurzweil, the Singularity is

an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today—the dawning of a new civilization that will enable us to transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity