AI Project, Part 3: The Beowulf Cluster

The third installment of an ongoing series regarding the development of an artificial intelligence by Ethan Block, and the efforts to prevent and destroy it by Clark Hubbard. Part 1 is available here, Part 2 here.

Ethan

For the entirety of human history,

Clark

I’m gonna stop you right there, because that sounds like the beginning of a lengthy college essay that doesn’t actually have anything to say. Like, the kind of essay where they change the font size on the periods and commas and shrink the margins so they can say enough.

Ethan

How would you like me to say what I want to say, Clark?

Clark

Just start out with what you want to say.

Ethan

People know that community strengthens productivity. How’s that?

Clark

Perfect.

Ethan

Good. If an organized group of people tackles a problem, they can solve it much faster than just one person. It’s why many scientific breakthroughs are made by teams of researchers, coordinating their efforts and contributing to a pool of work.

The same goes for computers, too. In order to run a program as complex as Madison the artificial intelligence, I knew that I needed something with a lot of processing power. Unfortunately, the processors designed for heavy computation tasks can cost thousands of dollars, which I cannot afford at the moment.

Clark

Oh shoot, I guess that means you can’t make an artificial intelligence, that’s a shame…

Ethan

Not so fast. I built a comparatively cheap supercomputer, a Beowulf cluster.

Clark

That is a horrifying name for an even more horrifying device.

Ethan

The idea of a Beowulf cluster is that it is made up of a number of identical computers, or “nodes”, which all share their processing power to run a program. It was invented by Jacek Radajewski (such an awesome last name) and Douglas Eadline in 1998, and since then, has been implemented by various universities and hobbyists. There is a 52-node Beowulf cluster at McGill University built for the purpose of detecting pulsars in space. That’s an incredible amount of computing power.

At the moment, I don’t have 52 computers available, but I have managed to wire together five Lenovo ThinkCenter desktop computers. They’re from the mid-2000s era, meaning they have decent processing power and RAM (random access memory, used to temporarily store information), and altogether can easily run the artificial intelligence in its current state. I have connected all five of them with Ethernet cables to a hub, which can be used by the computers to send information to each other.

Clark

So basically, if we’re gonna use the analogy that you started with, you’ve kidnapped five average people (as slaves), and are forcing them to think for you?

Ethan

I’m not sure if I’d quite say that-

Clark

I’m going to try and take this to court and get you arrested so you never destroy humanity.

Ethan

(Whispered) Madison will protect me

Clark

What was that?

Ethan

Nothing. Anyways, in the future, I plan to purchase more of these ThinkCenter computers and wire them in to the cluster. My goal is to have twenty of these computers in the Beowulf cluster by 2019, and double that number by 2020.

Clark

So you’re saying I still have a few years to kill you or the computer.

Ethan

For those of you interested in learning more about the topic, here are some links:

Until next time,

Ethan and Clark

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