Intel CTO: Machines could ultimately match human intelligence

Intel’s Justin Rattner discusses the “singularity” and future of supercomputing

Will machines ever be as smart as humans? Intel CTO Justin Rattner thinks that someday, they might.

The notion of a technological "singularity," a time when machines match and surpass human intellect, has been popularized by thinkers such as inventor and author Raymond Kurzweil, who commonly cites Moore's Law in his arguments about the exponential growth of technology.

Rattner's views on the singularity are sought after, given that he is CTO of the world's biggest chipmaker and the head of Intel Labs, the company's primary research arm. In a recent interview with Network World, Rattner said he has "tried to sidestep the question of when [the singularity] might occur," but says machine intelligence is constantly increasing due to laws of accelerating returns, "of which Moore's Law is perhaps the best example."

"There will be a surprising amount of machines that do exhibit human-like capabilities," Rattner said. "Not to the extent of what humans can do today, but in an increasing number of areas these machines will show more and more human-like intelligence, particularly in the perceptual tasks. So yeah, at some point, assuming all kinds of advances and breakthroughs, it's not inconceivable we'll reach a point that machines do match human intelligence."

Already, scientists are working on placing neural sensors and chips into the brain, allowing people to control prosthetic limbs with their own thoughts. This is likely to become a "relatively routine procedure" in a few years, Rattner said.

Rattner said that while many commentators are preoccupied with the far-off singularity, he concerns himself more on how laws of accelerating returns "are real" and could lead to amazing advances in technology, including augmentation of the human body.

"Assuming that interface technology progresses in an accelerating way, the possibilities of augmenting human intelligence with machine intelligence become increasingly real and more diverse," Rattner said.

Rattner's views are also held in high regard in the world of supercomputing, of course, and he will deliver the opening address at the SC supercomputing conference in Portland, Ore. in November. Nearly 80% of the world's 500 fastest supercomputers use Intel processors.

The world's first petaflop machines, capable of performing one thousand trillion calculations per second, came online just last year. But Rattner says the supercomputing industry is already looking forward to the era of the exaflop -- 1,000 times faster than a petaflop.

Rattner says the fundamental technologies behind a future exaflop machine could be demonstrated by the middle of next decade, and -- depending on government investment -- the first exaflop machines could become operational in the second half of the decade.

But this still depends on overcoming limitations in today's computing architectures.

"Now that we've achieved petascale computing, there's all this interest in getting the next factor of 1,000," Rattner said. "But we can't get there with today's technology, largely because of power considerations. You'd need a 500-megawatt nuclear power station to run the thing."

The industry will have to move that number down to something practical, perhaps tens of megawatts, Rattner said. But the work is just getting started.

"We've got a lot of really big engineering challenges," Rattner said. "Today, we just don't know how to get there."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags supercomputersintel

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jon Brodkin

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?