How High Performance Computing (HPC) is the core of AI research

When you see crops growing in a field or a threatening thundercloud forming, groundbreaking artificial intelligence or rows of powerful computer nodes, it’s probably not the first thing you think of. But the development of (extreme) weather forecasts and increased crop yields are just two examples of how high-performance computing (HPC) is now driving the next generation of breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). With real-world results that change (and even save) lives.

Powered by HPC, AI and ML help researchers tackle some of the biggest problems facing humanity, from serious diseases to climate change. From discovering ways to feed humanity in the coming decades to understanding how our brains create consciousness, HPC systems give universities and global companies computing power to conduct groundbreaking AI and ML research.

Growing expertise

Many of the crops we depend on, from corn to coffee and chocolate, will be disrupted by climate change in the coming decades. A recent study shows that the yield of the world’s top 10 food crops is already declining – and that food insecure countries will suffer the most. To keep up with this, food production must increase by 50%. AI and HPC play a key role in solving this problem.

Researchers need to quickly design new, more efficient ways of growing food. At present, global food production exceeds the needs of humanity, but in the not too distant future this may no longer be the case. Understanding this problem requires huge amounts of data from sources, such as very high resolution satellite imagery. To calculate this amount of data, smart AI is needed, supported by an extremely powerful computer infrastructure. This is a great example of how HPC will conduct future AI research.

More than a rainstorm

As the world warms, extreme weather events, from droughts to wildfires, are becoming more frequent, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Predicting these weather conditions will also become increasingly important as the world warms – but it is a much more complex task than predicting whether it will rain tomorrow.

The power of HPC and AI helps institutions around the world perform simulations with unprecedented accuracy to predict extreme weather appropriately, from the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MMD) to the Climate Change and Hydroological Extremes Project (ClimEx).

MMD previously provided three-day forecasts with a resolution of three kilometers. Using a Lenovo High Performance Computing (HPC) system, it now delivers forecasts of up to seven days with a resolution of one kilometer.

Saving lives

Artificial intelligence has led to many of the breakthroughs that contributed to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, from rapid sequencing of genomes from new strains to helping design vaccines. But in the future, artificial intelligence powered by HPC could pave the way for even more significant medical breakthroughs, speed up cancer diagnosis, fight blindness, and pave the way for a new era of personalized medicine. For example, researchers at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center have built and trained an AI model that can detect retinal disorders in less than ten minutes. It’s a breakthrough that could save millions of people’s sight.

Lenovo’s GOAST (Genomics Optimization and Scalability Tool), supported by HPC, has already accelerated the process of sequencing an entire human genome from 150-160 hours to just 18 minutes. These data may contain the key to a new era of personalized medicine, where treatments are genetically tailored to individual patients, where AI provides the necessary insight to create a whole new way of dealing with disease. The Alan Turing Institute describes this as “the future of medicine”.

High-performance computing is at the center and helps us all create a better technological future.

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