Monday, February 07, 2011

When Will Robots Dream Of Electric Sheep?

We've been hammering on a science fair project for Liam all weekend. A bit each night. After our day-time projects. Hours at a stretch. Researched the data points Saturday night. Typed up the pieces for the poster board last night. Cut out the components and glued them down to the board, tonight. And we're finally done.

Cindy "helped." Griped about it during the day. Tried to change the plan at night. Wanted to minimize everything. Finish it quickly. Get it over with already. Couldn't envision the final product. So fought me every step of the way. Fortunately, she eventually stopped fighting and started listening to me. She cut out the data, let us lay it out the way we wanted, and then glued everything in place. In the end, what does she say, "Oh, that's cool!" And she finally gets it. Thought it was a good idea. And that I had pieced all the colors and data together in a clever, very distinguished way. Perhaps I'll get a little trust and credit on the next project, but I doubt it.

The title of the research project is: When Will Robots Dream Of Electric Sheep? We wanted to know how long it might take before ONE man-sized computer might be able to match wits with a human. Given the recent coverage of IBM's Watson, we knew it wouldn't be too far away. Liam and I figured 20 years, tops. Watson's able to challenge the top-rated contestants on Jeopardy! and win. But Watson is actually a distributed super computer. 750 servers. Something like 2880 CPUs. 11 Terrabytes of RAM! Hardly man-sized. But Moore's Law suggests that the number of transistors on a CPU double every 18 months. So the processing power effectively doubles. If 750 servers can match wits with a human, how long before ONE server is 750 times more powerful? Using Moore's Law, we see that in 10 generations (15 years!) servers ought to be more than 750 times more powerful than todays servers. So in or before the year 2015, one server ought to be equal to Watson. At least the theory we presented.

The project gets reviewed on Wednesday. We'll see how well Liam does. But we're glad to be done with it!

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