Click to enlarge — Jack Dongarra/Top500
❝ China has built the world’s fastest supercomputer, capable of making 93 quadrillion calculations a second. And for the first time, it’s entirely powered by Chinese-made processors, following a US ban on exporting chips for devices suspected to be used for nuclear research.
Imperial nations have a hard time coming up with new excuses for policing the world. Nuclear “safety” is as hypocritical as “counter-terrorism” or “the white man’s burden” when it comes to attempting limits on knowledge, especially science.
❝ The Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer, which is located at the state-funded Chinese Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, a city near Shanghai in eastern China, is more than twice as powerful as previous record-holder Tianhe-2, according to TOP500, a research organization that ranks the powerful computers twice a year.
The milestone comes a year after the United States barred exports of computer chips to China for use in its supercomputers, citing concerns that the machines had been used in “nuclear explosive activities.” In turn, by ramping up development of its own chips, China has come to surpass the US’ own achievements in supercomputing: the top-placing American creation, the Department of Energy’s Titan, secured third place ranking on TOP500’s list, below China’s two-record breaking supercomputers.
❝ “It’s not based on an existing architecture. They built it themselves,” Jack Dongarra, a professor at the University of Tennessee, who created the measurement method used by TOP500, told Bloomberg of the top-placed Chinese computer. “This is a system that has Chinese processors.”…
❝ …China’s TaihuLight…has some 41,000 chips that each contain 260 processor cores, also uses a relatively small amount of memory – 1.3 petabytes – which helps improve its energy efficiency…It draws only 15.3 megawatts of power, less than the the 17.8 megawatts used by China’s Tianhe-2, the previous record holder, which could make 33 quadrillion calculations (also known as petaflops) a second.
The US’ fastest supercomputer, by contrast, has a top speed of about 17,590 petaflops, making China’s machine roughly five times as fast. Its Titan supercomputer, located at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, is being used for a variety of scientific research, including climate modeling, the lab says…
No one at Oak Ridge expects the Titan to be used for nuclear research. Really?
❝ Details of exactly how the supercomputers are used are sometimes vague. But researchers in the US appear to be using a supercomputing system that uses deep learning – the human-brain inspired machine learning technology that Google uses to power its Go champion computer and other systems – for nuclear research.
That system, located at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, is being used for “control of US nuclear weapons, and – in theory – management of agreements to reduce the number of nuclear missiles in the world,” ZDNet reported in March.
❝ The chip ban doesn’t appear to have deterred China from continuing its rapid progress in developing supercomputers. While it had no entries in TOP500’s list in 2001, it now has 167 entries compared to the US’ 165, Dr. Dongarra told Bloomberg.
“This is the first time that the Chinese have more systems than the U.S., so that, I think, is a striking accomplishment,” he said.
I expect this will generate press releases from Tea Party types and other fear-mongers – trying to justify even further limits on communications, shared research. The more the United States tries to continue its imperial model as cop of the world, the more likely that our isolation from mainstream commerce and discourse will become a negative factor for economic and social growth.
Same as it ever was.