Intel CTO Rattner on the Singularity and Accelerating Returns on Technology

Will machines ever be as smart as humans? Intel CTO Justin Rattner thinks that someday, they might. He is mostly looking at cognitive enhancement and advanced robotics.

Machine intelligence is constantly increasing due to laws of accelerating returns, “of which Moore’s Law is perhaps the best example.”

“There will be a surprising amount of machines that do exhibit human-like capabilities,” Rattner said. “Not to the extent of what humans can do today, but in an increasing number of areas these machines will show more and more human-like intelligence, particularly in the perceptual tasks. So yeah, at some point, assuming all kinds of advances and breakthroughs, it’s not inconceivable we’ll reach a point that machines do match human intelligence.”

Already, scientists are working on placing neural sensors and chips into the brain, allowing people to control prosthetic limbs with their own thoughts. This is likely to become a “relatively routine procedure” in a few years, Rattner said.

Rattner said that while many commentators are preoccupied with the far-off singularity, he concerns himself more on how laws of accelerating returns “are real” and could lead to amazing advances in technology, including augmentation of the human body.

Rattner says the fundamental technologies behind a future exaflop machine could be demonstrated by the middle of next decade, and – depending on government investment – the first exaflop machines could become operational in the second half of the decade

EETimes reports that chief executive Paul Ontelli indicates that Intel is on track to deliver 22 nm, 15 nm and 11 nanometer chips.

Otellini showed the company’s first working 22nm SRAM devices, 364 Mbit chips with 2.9 billion transistors. Intel plans to ship products using 22nm technology in late 2011 and will have its first Westmere-based chips based on 32nm technology before the end of this year.

Intel is using its existing 193-nm immersion lithography with double patterning on “just a few layers” for the 22nm process. It expects to extend the double patterning for its 15nm generation targeted at use for products in 2013.

“I wish we could have extreme ultraviolet lithography for 15nm, but it doesn’t look like it will be available on Intel’s schedule,” said Intel senior fellow Mark Bohr. “So we think we see a way to extend our immersion technology for 15nm, and we hope to have it for our 11nm work,” he added.

“We don’t need [triple patterning] at the 22nm node,” Bohr added. “At 15nm there may be one or two layers that require triple exposure, but we haven’t decided that yet, he said.

Intel Corp. will someday ship more system-on-chip devices than PC processors.