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Meta is building an AI supercomputer

Since its inception, Facebook has relied on artificial intelligence to assist it in the difficult task of moderating the billions of posts submitted by its users. In order to achieve that elusive goal, the company's parent company is now taking the first step toward realizing it: the construction of the company's first supercomputer.

On Monday, Meta announced the launch of its new Artificial Intelligence Research SuperCluster (RSC). The RSC is a supercomputer that is dedicated to artificial intelligence research. After two years of development, the supercomputer could eventually assist Meta in the development of significantly more powerful artificial intelligence software, which could be useful for difficult tasks such as detecting hate speech in social media posts.

As Shubho Sengupta, a software engineer at Meta (facebook), explained to CNN Business, "with RSC, we can train [AI] models that utilize multi-modal signals more quickly — for example, to understand the context of a post, which includes language, images, and tone."

Supercomputers, which are comprised of a large number of interconnected processors that are grouped into nodes, have gained in popularity and power in recent years, making them increasingly useful for artificial intelligence research. Summit, the fastest supercomputer in the United States Department of Energy's inventory and the second fastest supercomputer in the world, has been used to aid in the investigation of unknown proteins. Several large technology companies, such as Microsoft and Nvidia, have their own supercomputers on their premises.

A blog post co-authored by Sengupta on Monday stated that Meta's supercomputer had 6,080 GPUs distributed across 760 nodes as of January. This could place Meta's supercomputer among the world's most powerful, according to the company. In terms of size, Sengupta claims it is currently comparable to the Perlmutter supercomputer at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, which is ranked fifth in the world. When the system is finished later this year, Meta expects it to have 16,000 GPUs and be capable of nearly five exaflops of computing performance — or 5 quintillion operations per second — according to the company's predictions.

According to Sengupta, when the cluster is completed, its size will nearly triple, making it the world's fastest artificial intelligence supercomputer.

Meta stated that its researchers have begun training large models for natural-language processing and computer vision on the supercomputer, and that they will be able to "seamlessly analyze text, images, and video together" as well as develop new augmented reality tools with the help of the supercomputer in the coming months. Meta hopes that this will eventually allow the company to "build entirely new AI systems" that are capable of performing computationally demanding tasks such as real-time translations for a large group of people who speak different languages in a short period of time

Early tests revealed that the supercomputer could train large language models three times faster than the company's current system, according to the company. In practice, this means that an artificial intelligence model that would take nine weeks to train on the existing system would only take three weeks to train on the supercomputer.

Eventually, Meta hopes that its new supercomputer will be capable of training artificial intelligence models with trillions of parameters — at the moment, there are only a few examples of such models known to exist. As an added bonus, GPT-3, a large language model developed by OpenAI that can generate text with a natural tone and is used in applications such as language learning and freelance tax software, would be a fraction of the size.

Finally, Meta predicted, the supercomputer will enable the development of technologies that will allow for the creation of a so-called "metaverse" — an enormous, interconnected virtual realm in which people can walk around and interact with others who are also virtually present. Even though Facebook has proclaimed the metaverse as the company's vision for the future, only fragments of that vision have come to fruition so far.

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