Self-Driving Cars? Personalized Medicine? A new version of Siri that can manage every device in your house? Man, it feels like Artificial Intelligence(AI) I is rapidly taking over the whole world, what with it being added to every major product that uses an electric circuit.
The addition of AI to so many sectors of industry is meant to create a new breed of electronics that are able to ‘converse’ with their owners, continuously track information fed through their sensors from their immediate environment, and function independently when ordered to do so to minimize the need for constant human surveillance while performing their tasks.
Although Leaving Them Completely to Their Own Devices May Lead to Dangerous Results
Unfortunately, in the last few years, traditional AI models were predicted to soon hit the ceiling in terms of their capabilities, and be unable to rise to further heights of efficiency and functionality. The fundamental building blocks that drive AI are the same as what drive regular computers: A block of integrated circuits which combine to form the device’s CPU, or Central Processing Unit.
How powerful a computer (or AI) is, depends on powerful its CPU is. If AI is going to become a part of every machine around us, it needs to have a very powerful CPU. However, traditional CPU chips are limited by a problem. They are viewed as ‘2D’ structures, which means the various chips that make up the CPU (the storage chip, processor chip etc.) are laid out side by side on a central motherboard inside the computer. In order to make the computer function, information is transferred between these multiple chips at a certain predetermined speed.
A Speed Which Will Remain the Same No Matter How Much You Cry, Scream or Beg
This speed of information transfer may work for present-day computers, but AIs of the future will require much faster processing of information in order to do their jobs. If we try to make current CPUs process information at that speed, a bottleneck occurs at the various meeting points between the individual chips embedded in the motherboard. What this basically means is that these traditional CPUs will not allow future AI to function to their full potential.
But a recent breakthrough at MIT has uncovered an interesting fix for this problem. Traditional computer chips could only be created using thin slabs of silicone with the circuits embedded on their surface. These chips could only process information at limited speeds thanks to their single layer surface, and any attempts to add more layers of silicone circuitry on top of the existing chips was impossible since the silicone used to create the chip would melt from the heat required for the process.
The scientists at MIT, however, have worked around the problem by creating their chips out of carbon nanotubes rather than silicon. Carbon nanotubes are thin sheets of graphene that are formed into cylinders. Circuits made from this material can be created at temperatures below 200 degree Celsius, which means the chips that are made out of carbon nanotubes can be stacked one on top of the other without damaging the entire structure, effectively creating a new category of 3D computer chips.
The actual structure of the chip is, of course, far more complex than simply carbon nanotubes stacked one on top of the other, but suffice to say the resulting superstructure is able to process and transfer information at many magnitudes of speeds greater than traditional ‘2D’ computer chips.
So how do 3D chips help AI? Well, aside from providing a powerful CPU unit for the AI to carry out multiple functions at top speed, 3D computer chips will also help significantly shrink the size of future electronic devices. This means future computers and AI programs will be smaller, and able to operate much faster than bigger computers of today which use the current model of silicone circuit chips.
Not only computers but every other device, from sensors to phones, will be able to carry extremely powerful single-chip circuits with processing capacity far beyond anything available on the market today. The ripple effect of such a technology on the existing landscape of the world of electronics can be mind-boggling to consider. A much faster internet connection and a significantly speeded up framerate for your favorite video games are actually the smallest, most immediate effects of the technology that you will get to experience.
The greatest contribution of 3D computer chips will be to help usher in the age of the Super AI. This new breed of artificial intelligence will be able to fit into your mobile phone, and from there control every electronic device in your possession, monitor your bodily health, scour the internet for news related to your interests and essentially act as an all-seeing, all-controlling presence that can anticipate your every need and run your whole life!
Excited? Or Scared? Don’t worry, the greatest innovations often leave people feeling both. The technology behind 3D computer chips is still in the testing phase, which means it will be a few years until companies start adding them to commercial electronic goods. Until then, you can sit and stare at the CPU chip currently embedded in your laptop and wonder why you never realized how much it sucks.