For the past few years, processing technology has been steadily trying to break out of the typical x86 CPU mold that has been the standard since the 1970s. Since GPUs (graphics processing units) have emerged, traditional processing methods have been augmented with the vector computing approach of those units working in conjunction with CPUs.
Now, new types of processors are being developed that will take computing even further. As HPCWire reports, a company called Lyric Semiconductor is launching a line of products that will tackle computation in an entirely different way than the current linear method with Boolean gates that standard x86 processors employ. In other words, Lyric Semiconductor is chucking the 0s and 1s, the fundamentals of computer programming for the past half-century, out the window.
The method Lyric has been developing is based on probability processing. Michael Feldman of HPCWire describes how current computing applications have outgrown the linear model:
The goal is to construct hardware circuitry and software purpose-built for probability applications. With conventional digital technology, processing has to follow a strictly linear path. This is fine for software like operating systems, spreadsheets, word processing, and database transactions, where the computing consists of straightforward calculations or data movement. “But most of the interesting things happening nowadays don’t really fit into that model,” says Reynolds. . .That encompasses a wide range of applications including Web searching, financial modeling, genome sequence analysis, speech recognition, climate modeling, credit fraud detection, spam filtering, and financial modeling, among many others. People tend to associate these probability-based applications with human-like intelligence, and this is clearly where software, in general, is moving.
Lyric is ambitious, and this new form of processing could eventually overtake traditional CPUs in supercomputing applications. As the above article describes, new computing languages are being written that are customized for probability processing. As computers are programmed to think more and more like humans, the hardware that goes into them will continue to evolve beyond the linear modes of x86 computing.