Google has acknowledged the demand for high-power mining hardware as a driving force for the recent ‘computation explosion’.
In a recently released founders letter, Sergey Brin, President of Google’s parent company Alphabet reflected on the transformative era we are living through.
In recent years the power of computing machines has skyrocketed, whilst costs continue to plummet. Google has seen immense increases with its operational power, with Brin outlining:
“The Pentium IIs we used in the first year of Google performed about 100 million floating point operations per second. The GPUs we use today perform about 20 trillion such operations — a factor of about 200,000 difference — and our very own TPUs are now capable of 180 trillion (180,000,000,000,000) floating point operations per second.”
This, Brin predicts, is just the beginning. Quantum computing, a new field that is gaining motion fast, would see an exponential further increase. The 33 qubit quantum computer the company is developing is predicted to live up to company’s name, speeding up computations by a factor of a google (10,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000x).
According to Brin, a crucial factor driving the increase in computational power is cryptocurrencies. Greater demand for “GPU-friendly proof-of-work algorithms found in some of today’s leading cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum” has seen a surge of investment flooding the market, allowing hardware manufacturers to step up research and development.
Whilst the rapidly changing capabilities of computers is an impressive feat, Brin was keen to warn of the potential dangers this uncharted path may bring. He noted that “such powerful tools also bring with them new questions and responsibilities”, citing machine-learning, the replacement of human labour, and manipulation of humans by machines as crucial areas of consideration.
With these issues in mine, Brin concluded in positive vein, reinforcing again the responsibility the company is seeking to uphold.
“While I am optimistic about the potential to bring technology to bear on the greatest problems in the world, we are on a path that we must tread with deep responsibility, care, and humility. That is Alphabet’s goal.”
It remains to be seen how the future will play out. Google is fast becoming a technological behemoth, more powerful than many nation states. Whether the company can restrain this power and act with responsibility is a vital and necessary question, and the answer may impact the very future of humanity.
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