Hans Moravec has suggested that the human brain has a processing capacity of 10 quadrillion instructions per second (10 billion MIPS). In comparison, it was announced today that the fastest supercomputer in the world, called Roadrunner and devised and built by engineers and scientists at I.B.M. and Los Alamos National Laboratory, is capable of handling 1.026 quadrillion calculations per second.

In 2007, it was announced the previous fastest supercomputer, IBM’s Blue Gene /l, had been upgraded to achieve 478 TFLOPS sustained and 596 TFLOPS peak. So in less that 12 months, we’ve doubled (hey, I should create a law around that prediction).

So, if Moore’s Law holds out:

2009 – 2 QIPS

2010 – 4 QIPS

2011 – 8 QIPS

2012 – 16 QIPS – which puts it 6 QIPS above the suggested ability of a human brain.

Are you ready for that? Do you think the human race is ready for that?

We have NO IDEA what the consequences of that are. On one hand, it could be nothing. On the other hand, what if sentience is nothing more than massive computation?

Either way, here we are, a mere 4 years before a machine is likely to be built which will have a bigger brain than a human and we aren’t even discussing what that means for the human race.

Well, that’s not exactly true – Tyler’s Singularity Institute are discussing it, but where is the debate in mainstream media, in the government, in polite society?

It reminds me of a chat I had with Australian SF author Damien Broderick over dinner about ten years ago. I asked him when he thought these subjects would be discussed by the general populace. He replied “when it’s way too late to do anything about it”.