Approaching a singularity on multiple technological fronts

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  1. #1
    Great White Shark
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    Approaching a singularity on multiple technological fronts

    When I say singularity, I mean, a point where something will radically shift, and things won't be the same anymore.

    As standard (and not-so-standard) lithography approaches single digits, something will soon have to change. Our currently generation of lithography is at 22nm. Next generation is 18nm, followed by either 13nm or 11nm. After that the future is murky because you start to have a huge problem with electron tunneling. The gaps become so small they are no longer sufficient to act as a proper transistor.

    Time and again, people far smarter than me in both applied sciences and materials science have solved the problem in some way. But they are just prolonging the inevitable it seems. What can come next? Photonic computing? Quantum computing? Neither seems to be in a take-over position in the next 4 years or so.

    Then there are other technologies: hard drives (for mass-nearline/offline storage), tape drives, batteries.

    Batteries in particular are just odd. I have seen over the last 5 years roughly half a dozen new and easily commercialized solutions to radically increase battery life. Silicon nanowire based anodes, carbon nanotube solutions, etc. etc, etc. (I can find specific examples if you wish.)

    As we fight the constant struggle with packing more technology into less space; doing more with less energy, storing more energy so we can do things longer, what's next?

    I'd like to hear some feedback from my fellow sharks on anything they've heard about that they think could bring about the next radical shift in technology and the way we think about and use it.

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    I don't roll on Shabbos! Timman_24's Avatar
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    I think there is a lot of room for improvement on the software front. Multiple cores still aren't utilized. Look at Bulldozer, Windows can't even manage that properly. I think the next thing will be scaling up cores to postpone the singularity. I've heard of all kinds of new generation computing tech such as DNA/biological computers, quantum computing, and such. My previous physics professor is working on quantum computing. He said 5 year ago they made a large discovery that rekindled his interest. It may be closer than we see.

    Once Intel/AMD hit the wall on the modern process, massive funding will be spent on these newer techs to keep people buying.
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    Capt. Picard Fan Mod proxops-pete's Avatar
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    I read about a logic gate the size of atoms! o.O Let me find it...

    http://arstechnica.com/science/news/...ingle-atom.ars
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    LOLWUT ImaNihilist's Avatar
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    I would agree with the software front. We have so much compute power right now we don't even know what to DO with it. There is no code. We need a new generation of computer scientists. Most people, including myself, are just interested in making bucks off of simple project for the web. There aren't a lot of people these days really pushing interesting code. The incentive really isn't there.

    The most interesting project I've seen in a long time is Watson, and the interesting thing about Waston is that if you can get input latency low enough the compute power doesn't have to be local, it can be on a server somewhere else, even ephemeral. Watson uses something like 3,000 cores of computer power, but it took a team of geniuses to figure how to make it do anything at all. I think Watson and simple things like Siri show that we have the technology, we just don't have the software. There is no NASA for computer programming.

    If tomorrow Intel found out that they could make a Core i7 that was 10x faster across the board, I'm not sure it would really make that much of a difference. Sure, encoding times would drop…but really that's the only thing I can think of these days that sees real world gains from faster CPUs.
    Last edited by ImaNihilist; 03-05-2012 at 01:20 PM.

  5. #5
    I don't roll on Shabbos! Timman_24's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ImaNihilist View Post
    I would agree with the software front. We have so much compute power right now we don't even know what to DO with it. There is no code. We need a new generation of computer scientists. Most people, including myself, are just interested in making bucks off of simple project for the web. There aren't a lot of people these days really pushing interesting code. The incentive really isn't there.

    The most interesting project I've seen in a long time is Watson, and the interesting thing about Waston is that if you can get input latency low enough the compute power doesn't have to be local, it can be on a server somewhere else, even ephemeral. Watson uses something like 3,000 cores of computer power, but it took a team of geniuses to figure how to make it do anything at all. I think Watson and simple things like Siri show that we have the technology, we just don't have the software. There is no NASA for computer programming.

    If tomorrow Intel found out that they could make a Core i7 that was 10x faster across the board, I'm not sure it would really make that much of a difference. Sure, encoding times would drop…but really that's the only thing I can think of these days that sees real world gains from faster CPUs.
    The only people pushing code are game developers and the scientific community. Most of the high end super computer software is highly proprietary though. I saw a presentation last week about a company that uses night vision cameras coupled with a lens module that can take high resolution "xrays" of objects by detecting gamma rays. That's right, it uses night vision cameras and special lenses combined with software filters to detect gamma rays. It uses data collected from multiple detectors to reconstruct a fully 3D image of the internals of an object.

    It uses GPUs to do this calculation, two GTX295's actually. The guy was saying this type of calculation needed $250k computers 10 years ago, but now it only takes 2 $500 dollar GPUs. The project is aimed at the medical field.

    It is stuff like that that will push the envelope.
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    I am constantly amazed at how the efforts of the HPC crowd are not being backported to the rest of business. Things like infiniband, external PCIe, heterogeneous computing (GPU + CPU), RAM-only storage, etc. All of these things that were originally tested, designed and implemented in the HPC realm are now the watchwords of the day for high performance business platforms.

    From a software realm, I think there needs to be a radical shift in how people perceive the problems that they write software to solve. We have single systems with 40 cores and 80 threads, and yet, there isn't really a workload that could take advantage of all of that, especially when usually your access to the storage solution backing it will end up single threaded (for example, linux and irqd).

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    Capt. Picard Fan Mod proxops-pete's Avatar
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    Having used all that HPC-related tech, I can attest to how awesome all those are... but it does come at (very) high cost. And I am guessing that that's been the very limiting factor... Infiniband tech alone costs 6 figures...
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    LOLWUT ImaNihilist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James View Post
    From a software realm, I think there needs to be a radical shift in how people perceive the problems that they write software to solve. We have single systems with 40 cores and 80 threads, and yet, there isn't really a workload that could take advantage of all of that, especially when usually your access to the storage solution backing it will end up single threaded (for example, linux and irqd).
    It's a bit of a mathematics issue as well. It's difficult to multithread a lot of applications, especially those you want to respond in real time. Cutting up video to be rendered or compressing is easy—it's a fixed length and you can divide it any number of ways.

    That's what was so interesting to me about Watson. They throw 3,000 cores at a something you wouldn't think could be heavily multithreaded, and it responds in near real time. I'm not quite sure how they did it. What, exactly, was each core doing? Some processing audio, some looking for keywords, others doing probability…but how do you scale that over 3,000 threads?
    Last edited by ImaNihilist; 03-08-2012 at 01:24 PM.

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    I don't roll on Shabbos! Timman_24's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ImaNihilist View Post
    It's a bit of a mathematics issue as well. It's difficult to multithread a lot of applications, especially those you want to respond in real time. Cutting up video to be rendered or compressing is easy—it's a fixed length and you can divide it any number of ways.

    That's what was so interesting to me about Watson. They throw 3,000 cores at a something you wouldn't think could be heavily multithreaded, and it responds in near real time. I'm not quite sure how they did it. What, exactly, was each core doing? Some processing audio, some looking for keywords, others doing probability…but how do you scale that over 3,000 threads?
    I believe Watson was fed text files of the questions. I'm pretty sure the enormous amount of computer programmers that are coding these days are not doing it at a machine level. I bet there are only a handful of people that actually write code at that basic level, which is needed to progress the software front. I'd venture to guess 90% or more of programmers only know high level languages such as C and Java. There is no way to tackle unique hardware issues using those.
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    There needs to be more focus in multithreading the storage back end. That's where the major problem lies.

    If they used GPU type subprocessors for things like parity calculations, hardware RAID could actually be a performance contender. As it stands now, they are so far behind software RAID solutions it's not even funny.

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  11. #11
    LOLWUT ImaNihilist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James View Post
    There needs to be more focus in multithreading the storage back end. That's where the major problem lies.

    If they used GPU type subprocessors for things like parity calculations, hardware RAID could actually be a performance contender. As it stands now, they are so far behind software RAID solutions it's not even funny.
    Multithreaded storage is kind of Fusion IO's thing too. Their new PCIe 16x card has some kind of retarded bandwidth, like 4GB/s writes and 7GB/s reads.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ImaNihilist View Post
    Multithreaded storage is kind of Fusion IO's thing too. Their new PCIe 16x card has some kind of retarded bandwidth, like 4GB/s writes and 7GB/s reads.
    They must have done a radical redesign then, because their earlier cards (FusionIO, FusioIO Duo, etc.) were horribly slow and could only reach their marketing claims when they striped across multiple cards.

    Even then if you put a filesystem across them (getting back to something like irqd) your performance tanks. Big time. All filesystems were written to hide the latency of slow speed storage. This is an inherent design flaw when paired up with something that is high speed.

    Raw device access, I have yet to find anything that comes close to a price/performance ratio of something like the RamSan. It's that far ahead of a FusionIO card. (To be fair, I haven't tested their ultra high end.)

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    Invisible Modfish Vindir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Timman_24 View Post
    I believe Watson was fed text files of the questions. I'm pretty sure the enormous amount of computer programmers that are coding these days are not doing it at a machine level. I bet there are only a handful of people that actually write code at that basic level, which is needed to progress the software front. I'd venture to guess 90% or more of programmers only know high level languages such as C and Java. There is no way to tackle unique hardware issues using those.
    You might be disappointed there. Over the last ten years or so the web programming side of things has become such a huge industry that it's more likely the majority don't even know C or Java.

    The numbers are abysmal if you're looking for people who've taken the time to really understand assembly well enough to read through a common disassembly or even those who are into some of the cooler more esoteric languages like haskell, ocaml, lisp, smalltalk.
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    I don't roll on Shabbos! Timman_24's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vindir View Post
    You might be disappointed there. Over the last ten years or so the web programming side of things has become such a huge industry that it's more likely the majority don't even know C or Java.

    The numbers are abysmal if you're looking for people who've taken the time to really understand assembly well enough to read through a common disassembly or even those who are into some of the cooler more esoteric languages like haskell, ocaml, lisp, smalltalk.
    Yes, so it doesn't surprise me that machine level advances are very slow and take a long time to implement. I can't imagine how long it would take to start over with a new computing technology, such as quantum.
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