JAPANESE ROBOTS: AIST’s Planned Supercomputer to Design Robots...Portending Singularity?

JAPANESE ROBOTS: AIST’s Planned Supercomputer to Design Robots...Portending Singularity?

Editor’s Note: 
Focusing specifically on Japanese robotics coverage, AkihabaraNews has begun a cross-publishing effort with the highly regarded, nationally syndicated Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (Daily Business & Technology Newspaper). Selected works from MR. RENO'S ROBOT SOCIETY, a bi-monthly, Japanese-language column by AkihabaraNews managing editor and flaming robotics nerd Reno J. Tibke, are re-published here in English. We hope you enjoy! ー IMAGE: “Ancestor,” Computational Vacuum Tubes from a 1950s UNIVAC Computer; Photo by the Author.

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With the recent announcement of its AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI) project, Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) has vigorously reinforced the notion that we humans need, or at least want ever more powerful computers.

Intended to operate at a peak speed of 130 petaflops (130 quadrillion calculations per second), ABCI will represent a broad generational leap beyond China's Sunway TaihuLight, currently the world’s fastest at 93 petaflops. The project has a healthy budget of ¥19.5 billion yen (US $173 million), and the system is scheduled for completion in late-2017.

Brain Building?

In the context of social robotics, interest point #1 here is the notion that the Sunway TaihuLight, those made by Cray and IBM in the U.S., and the eventual ABCI system are the kind of machines that one day could, or, more realistically stated, probably will power minds far more intelligent and capable than our own...maybe.

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The Technological Singularity Requires Such Machines

It’s a complicated and controversial idea, but at its essence, Technological Singularity is a theoretical point in human technological development where we create machines of an intelligence equal to our own. They will in turn rapidly create machines smarter than themselves, and at that point, technological progress becomes impossible to predict; we cannot know the motivations of such minds, or whether they will have motivations at all. Maybe they’ll be nice, maybe not. Maybe they’ll spontaneously “wake up” into consciousness, maybe not.

Right along side everything we just don’t know, we do know that these considerations are not limited to sci-fi. While there is plenty of dissent, a great number of serious, sober experts in computational science wholly accept that sufficiently powerful computers, provided with the right instructions, will eventually result in an artificial mind...again, maybe.

...Which Matters: ABCI is Going to Design Robots

Tying things together here, interest point #2 revolves around the stated purposes for the ABCI computer system: medical research, software development for driverless cars, and designing robotics stuff. Given that last point, one wonders: could Japan’s future king of computing someday play a role in achieving Technological Singularity and then copy/paste the instructions for true, super-human artificial intelligence into a robot?

Yeah, ummmm, pretty unlikely. 
But hey...maybe.

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For those who read Japanese, the original article is published on Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun’s NEWSWITCH technology website: ロボのまち・さがみの奇妙で希望に満ちた宣伝アニメ

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