Forget 2014, let’s talk about what to expect in 2020, just six years from now, say a supercomputer finally capable of mongo-calculative deftness on par with what some believe to be the processing oomph of a single human brain.
Let’s put a number around that: one exaflop (FLOP standing for “floating-point operations per second” — the industry benchmark in scientific calculation horsepower) is equal to 1 x 1018 or 10 quintillion (a million trillion) FLOPs per second. That’s a one followed by 18 zeroes, or three more than you’d drop after a petaflops computer: today’s fastest supercomputer, China’s Tianhe-2, according to official TOP500 ranking (as for November 18, 2013), is capable of 33.86 petaflops; an exascale computer would be at least 30 times faster.
Japan-based RIKEN, located just outside Tokyo, says it’s been selected by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to design an exascale supercomputer, and that…
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