Computers Are Catching Up With the Human Brain


The United States government is pumping $200 million into a project to build the world’s most powerful supercomputer. Dubbed the Aurora, the supercomputer is expected to start crunching numbers in 2018, and it'll not only help scientists conduct revolutionary research but edge computers one step closer to matching the human brain.

Today’s top supercomputer, which has held that title since June 2013, is China’s Tianhe-2. Its peak performance is 54.9 quadrillion calculations per second, or 54.9 petaflops. Aurora will perform calculations at an astounding rate of 180 petaflops. That will allow it to model complex systems like nature, the universe, and the human body. Though Aurora will be “open to all scientific users,” the Department of Energy points out a few specific goals it will be working toward, including the development of new materials for solar and battery power, an increased understanding of disease control, and the development of highly efficient engines.

Even with all that power, Aurora is still a ways away from achieving processing speeds on par with the human brain. As Vice notes, a computer won’t be considered capable of matching our brains until it can process calculations at an exaflop, or one quintillion calculations per second. That’s a one followed by 18 zeros. Why’s a computer with an exaflop of power so prized? Because, when it comes to supercomputers, more is always better.