the insatiable need for cpu power -- 8/31/22

Today's selection -- from The Metaverse by Matthew Ball. The growth of the metaverse, among other things, means that the need for more computing power will grow at overwhelming rates. How will this need be met? The answer may come from your own willingness to let others use the idle processing power of your own laptop:
"The insatiable need for more processing power -- ideally, located as close as possible to the user but, at the very least, in nearby indus­trial server farms -- invariably leads to a third option: decentralized computing. With so many powerful and often inactive devices in the homes and hands of consumers, near other homes and hands, it feels inevitable that we'd develop systems to share in their mostly idle pro­cessing power.

"Culturally, at least, the idea of collectively shared but privately owned infrastructure is already well understood. Anyone who installs solar panels at their home can sell excess power to their local grid (and, indirectly, to their neighbor). Elon Musk touts a future in which your Tesla earns you rent as a self-driving car when you're not using it yourself -- better than just being parked in your garage for 99% of its life.

"As early as the 1990s programs emerged for distributed computing using everyday consumer hardware. One of the most famous exam­ples is the University of California, Berkeley's SETl@HOME, wherein consumers would volunteer use of their home computers to power the search for alien life. Sweeney has highlighted that one of the items on his 'to-do list' for the first-person shooter Unreal Tournament 1, which shipped in 1998, was 'to enable game servers to talk to each other so we can just have an unbounded number of players in a single game session.' Nearly 20 years later, however, Sweeney admitted that goal 'seems to still be on our wish list.'

"Although the technology to split GPUs and share non-data cen­ter CPUs is nascent, some believe that blockchains provide both the technological mechanism for decentralized computing as well as its economic model. The idea is that owners of underutilized CPUs and GPUs would be 'paid' in some cryptocurrency for the use of their processing capabilities. There might even be a live auction for access to these resources, either those with 'jobs' bidding for access or those with capacity bidding on jobs.

"Could such a marketplace provide some of the massive amounts of processing capacity that will be required by the Metaverse? Imagine, as you navigate immersive spaces, your account continuously bidding out the necessary computing tasks to mobile devices held but unused by people near you, perhaps people walking down the street next to you, to render or animate the experiences you encounter. Later, when you’re not using your own devices, you would be earning tokens as they return the favor. Proponents of this crypto-exchange concept see it as an inevitable feature of all future microchips. Every computer, no matter how small, would be designed to be auctioning off any spare cycles at all times. Billions of dynamically arrayed processors will power the deep compute cycles of event the largest industrial customers and provide the ultimate and infinite computing mesh that enables the Metaverse."



Matthew Ball


The Metaverse: And How it Will Revolutionize Everything


First Grove Atlantic


Copyright 2022, W.W. Norton and Company Inc.


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