A team of 19 Chinese computer scientists from five separate institutions claim to have created an AI that designed a computer’s central processing unit (CPU)—a computer’s master chip or “brain”—in less than five hours, or about 1,000 times faster than humans could have accomplished the same task.
The AI was told to design an industrial-scale RISC CPU able to run the Linux operating system and perform with at least 99.99 percent accuracy.
A RISC chip, or “reduced instruction set computer” is a chip designed to carry out a limited number of functions so that it completes millions of instructions more per second than other widely capable chips.
After being designed, a chip has to be built and manually programmed, then tested to see if it works. That accounts for as much as 80 percent of the time needed to design a chip.
The AI handled the testing by building a digital version of its chip and testing the digital version itself instead of turning the task over to humans.
Along the way, the AI also independently figured out what’s called the “von Neumann architecture” for computers, the Chinese team claims.
Named after the electrical engineer who concocted it in 1945, the von Neumann architecture calls for a computer to have a central processing unit, a control unit, memory, mass storage, and input and output systems.
The AI’s chip performs about as well as an Intel CPU from 1991.
However, the purpose of the exercise was not to make a better chip. Instead, it was to show that AI gives computers the capacity to design computers, opening the door to self-evolving machines.
More immediately, the research showed that turning chip design over to AI can slash design times, enabling the industry to be more responsive to ground-shifts in demand for chips—such as the ground-shift being created by AI itself.
TRENDPOST: We’re approaching the point at which both computers and AIs can design their own next generations. By then, adequate safeguards need to be in place that still allow humans a controlling hand in the process.