How 14th-gen Meteor Lake plans to deliver on Intel’s road map

Intel peeled back the curtain on its 14th-gen Meteor Lake processors at Hot Chips 2022. Although we have to wait for 13th-gen Raptor Lake processors to make the rounds later this year first, Meteor Lake is shaping up to be an exciting generation that brings Intel’s years-old plans full circle.

In mid-2021, Intel laid out a road map leading into 2025 that started with 12th-gen Alder Lake processors. Meteor Lake is the next significant step in that road map, as Intel moves down to its Intel 4 manufacturing process and begins to integrate multiple dies onto a single chip. Instead of Intel manufacturing everything, Meteor Lake will use dies from different vendors.


We got a look at a zoomed-back die shot that shows separate compute, GPU, IO, and system-on-a-chip (SOC) tiles, each of which use a different manufacturing process. The main compute die uses Intel 4, and the rest of the die should use process nodes from chipmaker TSMC. Intel isn’t ready to reveal the specific nodes yet, but earlier this year, the company hinted at TSMC N3.

Intel is still designing everything, but Meteor Lake looks like the true starting point for IDM 2.0 strategy. Although the company has tapped other foundries for manufacturing in the past, it hasn’t integrated those various process technologies under one roof. Meteor Lake does that, enabled by Intel’s Foveros 3D packaging technology.

Meteor Lake actually has a fifth die that lives under the other four, and that’s the Forveros die. It’s like a base for all of the other logic on the chip, and Intel says it’s passive, transferring data between the dies without taking up extra power.

We don’t know much beyond the different tiles right now, though. Meteor Lake will use the same hybrid architecture as Alder Lake and Raptor Lake, but with upgraded Redwood Cove performance cores and Crestmont efficiency cores. Rumors also point to Intel using its next-gen Battlemage Xe-2 architecture for the GPU, though the it’s possible that Meteor Lake could use first-gen Arc graphics given its current timeline (Arc Alchemist GPUs use TSMC N6).

Meteor Lake also sets up Intel’s future generations. In a briefing with press, Intel confirmed that Meteor Lake and the following Arrow Lake will be available on desktop and mobile, dispelling an old rumor that Meteor Lake would focus solely on laptops. Intel commented that 16th-gen Lunar Lake processors were originally targeted for portable laptops (15 watts and under) but wouldn’t comment on the generation beyond that. We’re not sure what platforms Lunar Lake will target yet.

At this point, Intel has mostly confirmed a leaked road map that circulated in late 2021. We expect Meteor Lake processors in 2023, following the launch of 13th-gen Raptor Lake processors in late 2022. Intel is rumored to be using a new socket for Meteor Lake, but coolers compatible with Raptor Lake and Alder Lake will reportedly work.

Although Intel has lost some headway in process technology to AMD and TSMC, it is promising to see Team Blue executing on the plan it laid out more than a year ago. That doesn’t mean Intel shoots to the lead, though, as AMD prepares its Ryzen 7000 CPUs for a 2022 launch.

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AMD’s Ryzen road map spells out how it plans to beat Intel

AMD showed off its Ryzen road map on desktop and mobile during its Financial Analyst Day on Thursday, laying out how it plans to beat Intel to have the best processor. The road map reveals several key details about the upcoming Ryzen 7000 processors, as well as future CPUs for laptops and desktops. Although AMD didn’t provide hard performance numbers, the company still revealed expected performance for its Ryzen 7000 CPUs.

In particular, AMD says Ryzen 7000 comes with between an 8% and 10% increase in instruction per clock (IPC), and that it has a 25% performance-per-watt advantage over Ryzen 5000 CPUs. AMD reconfirmed the greater than 15% single-core performance increase it announced at Computex, too, which the company says is a very conservative estimate. In a pre-brief, AMD says it wants to underscore the “greater than” part of the claim.

Overall, AMD says Ryzen 7000 is 35% faster than the previous generation, which is a massive jump. It doesn’t stop at Ryzen 7000, though. In addition to 3D V-Cache coming back to Ryzen, AMD’s Ryzen road map (above) reveals some details about Zen 5 CPUs as well. AMD says they’re coming in 2024 and will offer a much more significant step up in performance.

These chips will use a 4nm manufacturing process for desktops, but that’s about all we know for now. The only major development is that Zen 5 CPUs could use a multinode architecture, similar to Intel Alder Lake. AMD didn’t outright confirm this is the case, but it talked up its fourth-gen Infinity architecture that enables multi-node designs.

In addition, the road map confirms that Threadripper processors built on Zen 4 are in the works. A leaked road map hinted at Threadripper 7000 earlier this year, and it is expected to launch in early 2023. You might not be able to buy them for your next PC build, though. Threadripper 5000 processors, for example, are currently only available in the Lenovo P620 workstation.

AMD's Ryzen mobile roadmap through 2024.

AMD provided a road map for its laptop processors, too (above). The company just launched Ryzen 6000 mobile, so now AMD’s sights are set on Phoenix Point chips in early 2023. We don’t have a confirmed name for this range yet, but AMD says they’ll use Zen 4 cores like Ryzen 7000 and be built using a 4nm manufacturing process.

Perhaps more exciting, these next-gen mobile CPUs will come with RDNA 3 graphics built-in — that’s the architecture behind AMD’s upcoming RX 7000 GPUs. Laptops have become a larger focus for AMD over the past few generations. Although Ryzen 6000 doesn’t beat Intel across the board, next-gen processors may.

Phoenix Point processors will target a power range of 35 watts to 45W for high-performance laptops, but AMD has previously confirmed an even more powerful lineup of mobile chips dubbed Dragon Range. These should launch around the same time as Phoenix Point, though they aren’t included on AMD’s new road map.

Beyond Phoenix Point, AMD will launch Strix Point built on Zen 5 CPU cores. We don’t know the manufacturing process yet, and details are light, as they are with Zen 5 desktop CPUs. The biggest announcement was that they will include RDNA 3+ graphics, which seems to be an enhanced version of AMD’s upcoming graphics architecture.

AMD Ryzen processor render.

Both Phoenix Point and Strix Point will also introduce an AI engine developed by Xilinx — a company that AMD recently acquired. It’s tough to say what specifically the engine will do, but it will likely target features that improve battery life, webcam performance, and system noise. AMD hasn’t revealed any details, though.

AMD is gearing up for a fight following the release of Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake processors. Looking forward, Ryzen 7000 will compete with Intel Meteor Lake, which is Intel’s next generation of processors. Intel is sticking with the same manufacturing process as Alder Lake, which could give AMD a leg up in the next generation. Intel has a road map of its own, however, so it’ll be an interesting few years.

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Intel Road Map Explained: Going Beyond 2025

Intel introduced a new road map at its Intel Accelerated event, laying the path forward for the next few years. Now that we know what Intel is working on, we have a much clearer picture of how the chipmaker is operating under new leadership, as well as how it will climb back to the top after some big losses to rival AMD.

Starting in the coming months, Intel will push the envelope in how it creates, packages, and sells processors. Although the road map is subject to change — it wouldn’t be the first time for Intel — the path forward looks exciting for Team Blue.

2021: Intel 7, Alder Lake

Intel’s road map kicks off later this year with the introduction of Intel 7 and the launch of Alder Lake processors. Intel 7 was previously known as 10nm Enhanced SuperFin, building off of the 10nm process showcased in Tiger Lake processors. It’s the same node, but thanks to various optimizations, it offers up to a 15% improvement in performance per watt.

Although Intel 7 implies a 7nm process, Intel is sticking with 10nm through 2021. Instead, the change in naming helps Intel reflect its improvements in transistor density and performance per watt compared to other chipmakers like TSMC and Samsung.

Alder Lake processors will be the first to feature Intel 7, and they’re set to launch in late 2021. The processors will use a hybrid design — dubbed “big.LITTLE” by chip designer ARM — that utilizes high-performance cores and high-efficiency cores on the same processor. By delegating work to an appropriate core, the high-performance cores have more headroom, and Intel is able to pack more cores into the processor to improve multi-core performance.

The big Golden Cove cores handle the bulk of the work, and they’re similar to what you’d find in a standard Intel processor. Like previous core designs, Golden Cove cores support hyperthreading, giving you access to double the number of threads based on how many cores the processor has.

A diagram of intel Alder Lake processors.

The little Gracemont cores don’t support hyperthreading, but that’s not really their purpose. The cores are based on an Intel Atom design, which shows up in low-power, high-efficiency devices. The flagship Intel Core i9-12900K is rumored to feature eight Golden Cove and eight Gracemont cores, offering a total of 16 cores and 24 threads.

Although Intel isn’t moving to 7nm with Alder Lake, the changes in core design should bring a significant performance improvement. Early benchmarks show it beating AMD’s flagship Ryzen 9 5950X, and a leaked slide from Intel claimed up to a 20% increase in single-core performance.

Another advantage of this architecture is how it scales. Based on what we know, Intel can design an Alder Lake processor that requires as little as 5W of power. Intel is expected to release Alder Lake-P processors to replace Tiger Lake processors on mobile, though we don’t have a specific timeframe on when that’s happening right now.

2022: Raptor Lake

In 2022, Intel is rumored to follow up Alder Lake with Raptor Lake. These processors will also use the Intel 7 manufacturing process, serving as the “tock” in Intel’s traditional tick-tock release cadence. As such, Raptor Lake processors will be an improvement of Alder Lake, not an entirely new manufacturing process.

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger holding a chip.
Walden Kirsch/Intel Corporation

We don’t know as much about Raptor Lake right now, as Intel likes to play its releases close to the chest. As an improvement of Alder Lake, however, the processors should feature a similar hybrid architecture. Rumors suggest that Intel will stick with Gracemont for the high-efficiency cores but introduce improved Raptor Lake high-performance cores.

In addition to the core improvements, Intel is rumored to include more Gracemont cores in the design. The flagship chip is said to come with 24 cores — eight Raptor Lake and 16 Gracemont — for a total of 32 threads. The range should also introduce DLVR power delivery, allowing the processor to reduce its clock speed to very low speeds when not in use.

DLVR will also show up on Raptor Lake mobile processors. For the next couple of years, at least, it seems Intel is aligning its desktop and mobile releases. The introduction of DLVR should significantly improve the battery life of laptops. The mobile range will also introduce LPDDR5X memory, according to leaks.

Intel was rumored to transition over to its ATX12V0 power standard by the launch of Raptor Lake, building on the standard after it was announced in early 2020. However, recent rumors suggest that motherboard makers have pushed back on the standard, so Intel may backpedal.

2023: Intel 4 and Meteor Lake

In 2023, Intel will move on from 10nm to a 7nm process. Known now at Intel 4, the process will debut with the launch of Meteor Lake processors in 2023. Behind the scenes, Intel validated the Meteor Lake design earlier in 2021, suggesting that the range is on track for a 2023 launch.

The new process is said to bring a 20% gain in performance per watt thanks to the smaller size and use of EUV lithography, allowing Intel to create denser, more complex circuits. Until built on 7nm, Intel 4 will surpass TSMC and Samsung with their comparable 5nm nodes, with a transistor density of up to 250 million transistors per square millimeter.

Intel's process roadmap through 2025.

Intel infamously delayed the move to 7nm as it experienced manufacturing issues. Originally, speculation suggested that Meteor Lake would immediately follow Alder Lake, but the delay seems to have pushed Intel to develop Raptor Lake to fill the gap.

Although we don’t have any specs or products right now, there’s a lot to be excited about with Meteor Lake. It’s also rumored to use a hybrid design, using Redwood Cove high-performance cores with next-generation Gracemont cores. Redwood Cove is said to be an agnostic node, allowing Intel to create them in different fabs and stack them together.

This is where Intel will realize its 3D Foveros packaging technology. Foveros made its debut in 2020 with the launch of Lakefield processors, but Intel said it’s working on improvements to the packaging in the form of Foveros Omni and Forveros Direct. Meteor Lake is when we should see these packaging technologies come to fruition.

Redwood Cove will also help Intel avoid supply constraints and chip shortages, as the company (and the industry) was hit with in 2020. Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger referenced other fabs during the Intel Accelerated event in July 2021, suggesting this is a key part of Intel’s strategy moving forward.

2024: Intel 3, Intel 20A

Beyond 2023, things get a little vague. This far out, it really isn’t worth speculating on specific products as they’re likely in active development at Intel. At this point, we’re dealing in technologies and manufacturing advancements, not product ranges or specific processors.

Intel says the next step in its roadmap, Intel 3, will start production in the second half of 2023, so we should see the first products featuring it in early 2024. Like Intel 7, this is the “tock” in Intel’s development cadence. Instead of an entirely new node, Intel 3 will feature improvements to Intel’s 7nm manufacturing process.

Intel CEO presenting at the Intel Accelerated event.

Current testing shows an 18% improvement in performance per watt compared to Intel 4, thanks to the expanded use of EUV lithography and other improvements. This node will continue using the FinFET transistor design Intel introduced in 2011, serving as the last generation to feature it.

Later in 2024, Intel will begin ramping Intel 20A, which is the most exciting advancement the company has coming up. This would have otherwise been known as Intel 1, but the company changed the name to usher in the new “angstrom era” of semiconductors.

In addition to a new manufacturing process, Intel 20A will utilize two new architecture technologies. The first is PowerVia, which allows Intel to route power through the back of the wafer, not through the front as it has traditionally done. Intel says this delivery method is more efficient, which should translate into real-world performance gains.

Intel will ditch the FinFET transistor design with Intel 20A, as well. This generation will bring the new RibbonFET design, which is Intel’s name for its gates-all-around (GAA) transistor. Instead of using a single gate, a GAA transistor uses multiple gates on the transistor delivered through ribbons. This allows the transistor to open and close faster, vastly improving speed.

We don’t know of any products utilizing Intel 20A right now, but the company has already announced a partnership with rival Qualcomm. In the future, Qualcomm will use Intel fabs to build some of its chips utilizing Intel 20A.

2025: Intel 18A

A historic road map of Intel advancements.

The roadmap leads to 2025, where Intel will introduce Intel 18A and re-establish itself as a leader in the industry — at least based on current estimates. If Intel sticks with its launch cadence, Intel 18A will be another “tock” in the cycle, building on RibbonFET and PowerVia on a 5nm manufacturing process.

We don’t know anything about Intel 18A right now outside of the fact that it exists. However, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger says the company has clear plans even beyond this point. “Moore’s Law is alive and well. We have a clear path for the next decade of innovation to go to ‘1’ and well beyond. I like to say that, until the periodic table is exhausted, Moore’s Law isn’t over, and we will be relentless in our path to innovate with the magic of silicon,” he said.

With further partnerships with company’s like IBM, Intel could continue to push the boundaries of transistor density. Earlier this year, IBM unveiled the world’s first 2nm chip, providing a glimpse at what could be in store years down the line.

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Forza Motorsport 7 is reaching the end of the road, so get it while you can

Forza fans take note because we’re about to lose another game in the franchise. Microsoft has announced that Forza Motorsport 7 will be reaching end-of-life later this year, which means that the game and its DLC will be disappearing from digital storefronts. The game will also vanish from Xbox Game Pass, so if you’ve been eyeing Forza Motorsport 7 but have yet to take the plunge, now is the time to act.

A new post on the Forza Motorsport website explains that FM 7 will reach end-of-life status on September 15th, 2021. At that point, it’ll be removed from both the Microsoft Store and Xbox Game Pass, and it won’t be coming back. The good news is that those who already own the game will still be able to download it after it’s been delisted, so if it’s already in your library, you have nothing to worry about.

If you don’t already own it and you want to buy it before it goes away for good, Microsoft has put the game on sale through the Microsoft Store until it’s delisted in September. The standard edition is down to $9.99, while the deluxe edition is at $14.99, and the ultimate edition is priced at $19.99. In addition, Microsoft says that Xbox Game Pass subscribers who have purchased DLC for the game but not the game itself will receive a token that can be redeemed for Forza Motorsport 7.

It sounds like token distribution is happening now and will continue through August 2nd. Those who don’t receive a token by the end of August 2nd should contact Xbox Support. Users who get a token have until September 15th, 2023 to redeem them.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an uncommon thing in the Forza series, as each game in both the Motorsport and Horizon franchises is delisted eventually – likely because of the expiration of licensing deals for the cars and music in those games. As a result, there’s going to be some period of time where there’s no Forza Motorsport game available, as we don’t have a release date for Forza Motorsport on the Xbox Series X yet. We’ll let you know when more about that game is shared, so stay tuned.

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Bigger iPad Pro sizes could be years down the road

Although it’s not exactly the first one to have a large-screen tablet (remember the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2?), Apple definitely made gigantic slates a thing with its iPad Pros. Straddling the thin line between tablet and laptop, this new breed of computers also blur the lines between these mobile computers. Apple has been closing the gap even further, with the ability to run some iOS apps on Macs and the launch of ARM-based M1 Macs. According to a famed market analyst, Apple might even take the next step and bring the iPad closer to the MacBook in size, at least in a few years.

The large iPad Pro didn’t make a lot of friends immediately when it first launched. At 12.9 inches, some ridiculed it while others couldn’t figure out where it stood in Apple’s grand design. Fast-forward a few years, the tables have been turned slightly, and the “normal” iPads are the ones becoming an endangered species. Come 2023 or later, Apple might stir things up again with even larger iPads that will encroach into MacBook territory.

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reports that Apple is exploring larger iPads. No size has been hinted, but screens have traditionally fallen along 13, 14, 15 and 16 inches. Those happen also to be the sizes that the MacBooks and MacBook Pros are available in.

It’s not going to happen next year, though, says the analyst and reporter. For 2022, Apple is focused on redesigning the iPad Pro lineup while maintaining their current 11-inch and 12.9-inch sizes. Those redesigns include the rumored use of glass on the back of the slates. This, in turn, could herald the arrival of wireless charging, most likely an upgraded version of MagSafe technology.

While larger iPads could excite iPad Pro fans, they might also cause a bit of confusion among Apple’s own customers. With the latest Magic Keyboard with a trackpad and the upcoming iOS 15 release, the iPad Pros are closer to becoming full-fledged laptop replacements. Larger sizes could reinforce that image but possibly at the expense of Apple’s MacBook line.

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GTA Online for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 is finally reaching the end of the road

It’s almost hard to believe, but Grand Theft Auto Online for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 is still going strong to this day. The times they are a-changin’, though, with Rockstar today announcing that it will shut down the PS3 and Xbox One versions of GTA Online by the end of the year. In addition, online support is ending for two other Rockstar games on PS3 and Xbox One: LA Noire and Max Payne 3.

In a blog post today, Rockstar announced that it will shut down the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of GTA Online on December 16th, 2021. This includes stat tracking via the Rockstar Games Social Club, though Rockstar is clear that this shut down won’t affect Grand Theft Auto V‘s Story Mode on either platform. Rockstar will also stop selling Shark Cards on these platforms on September 15th, 2021.

We’ll see online services stop for the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of Max Payne 3 and LA Noire in the more immediate future. On September 16th, 2021, Max Payne 3 will lose “website stat tracking, online multiplayer, and leaderboards,” while LA Noire will lose website stat tracking. Once again, the shutdowns won’t impact either game’s Story Mode on these platforms.

It comes as no surprise that Rockstar has decided to shut down GTA Online on Xbox 360 and PS3. Both consoles have been discontinued for several years – Microsoft discontinued the Xbox 360 in 2016 while Sony had discontinued the PS3 worldwide by 2017 – and likely have much smaller player bases than Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. Rockstar is gearing up to release GTA Online on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X later this year, making the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions feel especially old.

So, if you’re still playing GTA Online on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, circle December 16th on your calendar because that’s the day Rockstar will pull the plug on those versions of the game for good.

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New Monster Hunter Rise and Stories 2 DLC Road Map Revealed

During the Capcom showcase, we got another look at Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, along with the road map for Monster Hunter Rise for June and July. Both games are getting new cosmetic options for players. We also learned that the trial version of Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin will be released on June 25.

The Palamute Monstie, a free content update for Monster Hunter Stories 2, will be available to download on July 15. Players will now be able to ride a palamute, the dog companion from Monster Hunter Rise, into battle and fight monsters. Monster Hunter Rise players are also getting a Tsukino layer armor for their palico that is available to download on June 18.

The road map for Monster Hunter Rise laid out new event quests for players to take on. The rewards for these quests are only cosmetics, but they include wearable sunglasses, black leather pants, new stickers, and new gestures.

Both Monster Hunter games are getting even more cosmetic options that are free to download. There will be various cosmetic options for Monster Hunter Rise players to dress up as Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin characters and vice versa.

Monster Hunter Rise is getting new paid DLC as well. The paid DLC includes new voice packs, skins for animal companions, and even more costumes for players. The voice packs allow players to change the voice of their characters. The newest packs include Kagero the Merchant and Rondine the Trader. The newest skins for the animal companions allow players to dress their palamutes and palicoes up in fashionable kimonos, as well as change Cohoot into a baby penguin.

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Watch Ford Testing Its New Driver-assist Tech on Road Trip

Ford took its next-generation driver-assist technology on a North American road trip that covered more than 100,000 miles.

The hands-free highway driving feature, which the U.S. auto giant is calling BlueCruise (formerly Active Drive Assist), was tested in five 2021 F-150 trucks and five all-electric 2021 Mustang Mach-E vehicles ahead of a rollout for owners of the same vehicles later this year.

The road trip, featured in the video at the top of this page, tested BlueCruise’s hands-free driving technology in real-world conditions over 62 days, through 37 states and 5 Canadian provinces.

Ford’s BlueCruise technology ensures vehicles stay centered in the lane, and can also handle stop-and-go traffic. The automaker said it tested the system on faded highway lines and during thousands of miles of severe weather.

Celebrating the test in a tweet, Ford CEO Jim Farley appeared to take a swipe at Tesla, which features similar technology in its own vehicles, saying: “BlueCruise! We tested it in the real world, so our customers don’t have to.” Toward the end of last year, Tesla released a beta version of its premium driver-assist system, called “Full Self-Driving,” for select Tesla drivers to try out.

BlueCruise! We tested it in the real world, so our customers don’t have to.

— Jim Farley (@jimfarley98) April 14, 2021

Emphasizing safety, Ford notes that its driver-assist features are “supplemental and do not replace the driver’s attention, judgment, and need to control the vehicle.” Tesla, for the record, issues a similar note of caution to its customers.

To ensure drivers stay focused on the road and don’t embark on any hazardous shenanigans such as playing with their phones while cruising along, BlueCruise issues a prompt telling the driver to retake control if it detects a lapse in attention. For this, it uses multiple interior cameras to track not only the driver’s head movements, but also their eye movements, a feat that Ford claims the technology can perform even if the driver is wearing sunglasses.

As for pricing, Ford explains: “For F-150, BlueCruise is available as a part of the Ford Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 package for a total of $1,595 — $600 for the software and $995 for the hardware. The Ford Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0 package is standard on F-150 Limited and available as an option on Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum models.

“For Mustang Mach-E, BlueCruise comes standard on CA Route 1, Premium, and First Edition variants. It’s an available package on the Select trim for $3,200 — $600 for the software and $2,600 for the rest of the package — as part of the larger Comfort and Technology package.”

Commenting on the latest version of its driver-assist technology, Ford safety engineer Alexandra Taylor said: “Driving can be an exhilarating and empowering experience, it can even be relaxing, but occasionally driving can be stressful … We’re confident that BlueCruise hands-free technology will make some highway driving a much less stressful driving experience.”

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The AI arms race has us on the road to Armageddon

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It’s now a given that countries worldwide are battling for AI supremacy. To date, most of the public discussion surrounding this competition has focused on commercial gains flowing from the technology. But the AI arms race for military applications is racing ahead as well, and concerned scientists, academics, and AI industry leaders have been sounding the alarm.

Compared to existing military capabilities, AI-enabled technology can make decisions on the battlefield with mathematical speed and accuracy and never get tired. However, countries and organizations developing this tech are only just beginning to articulate ideas about how ethics will influence the wars of the near future. Clearly, the development of AI-enabled autonomous weapons systems will raise significant risks for instability and conflict escalation. However, calls to ban these weapons are unlikely to succeed.

In an era of rising military tensions and risk, leading militaries worldwide are moving ahead with AI-enabled weapons and decision support, seeking leading-edge battlefield and security applications. The military potential of these weapons is substantial, but ethical concerns are largely being brushed aside. Already they are in use to guard ships against small boat attacks, search for terroristsstand sentry, and destroy adversary air defenses.

For now, the AI arms race is a cold war, mostly between the U.S., China, and Russia, but worries are it will become more than that. Driven by fear of other countries gaining the upper hand, the world’s military powers have been competing by leveraging AI for years — dating back at least to 1983 — to achieve an advantage in the balance of power. This continues today. Famously, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the nation that leads in AI will be the “ruler of the world.”

How policy lines up behind military AI use

According to an article in Salon, diverse and ideologically-distinct research organizations including the Center for New American Security (CNAS), the Brookings Institution, and the Heritage Foundation have argued that America must ratchet up spending on AI research and development. A Foreign Affairs article argues that nations who fail to embrace leading technologies for the battlefield will lose their competitive advantage. Speaking about AI, former U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said last year, “History informs us that those who are first to harness once-in-a-generation technologies often have a decisive advantage on the battlefield for years to come.” Indeed, leading militaries are investing heavily in AI, motivated by a desire to secure military operational advantages on the future battlefield.

Civilian oversight committees, as well as militaries, have adopted this view. Last fall, a U.S. bipartisan congressional report called on the Defense Department to get more serious about accelerating AI and autonomous capabilities. Created by Congress, the National Security Commission on AI (NSCAI) recently urged an increase in AI R&D funding over the next few years to ensure the U.S. is able to maintain its tactical edge over its adversaries and achieve “military AI readiness” by 2025.

In the future, warfare will pit “algorithm against algorithm,” claims the new NSCAI report. Although militaries have continued to compete using weapon systems similar to those of the 1980s, the NSCAI report claims: “the sources of battlefield advantage will shift from traditional factors like force size and levels of armaments to factors like superior data collection and assimilation, connectivity, computing power, algorithms, and system security.” It is possible that new AI-enabled weapons would render conventional forces near obsolete, with rows of decaying Abrams tanks gathering dust in the desert in much the same way as mothballed World War II ships lie off the coast of San Francisco. Speaking to reporters recently, Robert O. Work, vice chair of the NSCAI said of the international AI competition: “We have got … to take this competition seriously, and we need to win it.”

The accelerating AI arms race

Work to incorporate AI into the military is already far advanced. For example, militaries in the U.S., Russia, China, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Australia, Israel, Brazil, and Iran are developing cybersecurity applications, combat simulations, drone swarms, and other autonomous weapons.

Caption: The Russian Uran-9 is an armed robot. Credit: Dmitriy Fomin via Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 2.0.

A recently completed “global information dominance exercise” by U.S. Northern Command pointed to the tremendous advantages the Defense Department can achieve by applying machine learning and artificial intelligence to all-domain information. The exercise integrated information from all domains including space, cyberspace, air, land, sea, and undersea, according to Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck.

Gilman Louie, a commissioner on the NSCAI report, is quoted in a news article saying: “I think it’s a mistake to think of this as an arms race” — though he added, “We don’t want to be second.”

A dangerous pursuit

West Point has started training cadets to consider ethical issues when humans lose some control over the battlefield to smart machines. Along with the ethical and political issues of an AI arms race are the increased risks of triggering an accidental war. How might this happen? Any number of ways, from a misinterpreted drone strike to autonomous jet fighters with new algorithms.

AI systems are trained on data and reflect the quality of that data along with any inherent biases and assumptions of those developing the algorithms. Gartner predicts through 2023, up to 10% of AI training data will be poisoned by benign or malicious actors. That is significant, especially considering the security vulnerability of critical systems.

When it comes to bias, military applications of AI are presumably no different, except that the stakes are much higher than whether an applicant gets a good rate on car insurance. Writing in War on the Rocks, Rafael Loss and Joseph Johnson argue that military deterrence is an “extremely complex” problem — one that any AI hampered by a lack of good data will not likely be able to provide solutions for in the immediate future.

How about assumptions? In 1983, the world’s superpowers drew near to accidental nuclear war, largely because the Soviet Union relied on software to make predictions that were based on false assumptions. Seemingly this could happen again, especially as AI increases the likelihood that humans would be taken out of decision making. It is an open question whether the risks of such a mistake are higher or lower with greater use of AI, but Star Trek had a vision in 1967 for how this could play out. The risks of conflict had escalated to such a degree in a “Taste of Armageddon” that war was outsourced to a computer simulation that decided who would perish.

Source: Star Trek, A Taste of Armageddon.

There is no putting the genie back in the bottle. The AI arms race is well underway and leading militaries worldwide do not want to be in second place or worse. Where this will lead is subject to conjecture. Clearly, however, the wars of the future will be fought and determined by AI more than traditional “military might.” The ethical use of AI in these applications remains an open-ended issue. It was within the mandate of the NSCAI report to recommend restrictions on how the technology should be used, but this was unfortunately deferred to a later date.

Gary Grossman is the Senior VP of Technology Practice at Edelman and Global Lead of the Edelman AI Center of Excellence.


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Paving the Yellowbrick road to closer integration with cloud data stores

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Traditionally, data warehouses meant enterprises had to either commit to one platform or suffer the complexity of managing multiple quasi-compatible infrastructures. With that in mind, Yellowbrick Data recently launched Yellowbrick Manager to make it easier for administrators to manage data warehouses across distributed cloud and on-premises deployments with a simplified interface.

Users can control Yellowbrick data warehouses in public clouds, on Yellowbrick hardware instances, in private clouds, and even at the network edge, the company said. Yellowbrick Manager provides a unified control system that uses the Kubernetes container orchestration system to enable users to manage and control both cloud and on-premises deployments with enhanced performance capabilities.

“It’s this single unified control plane, together with the adoption of Kubernetes in our database software, that sets us apart,” Yellowbrick CTO Mark Cusack told VentureBeat.

The company also added agile data movement capabilities to help customers integrate Yellowbrick with data lakes built on cloud object stores like Amazon S3. A technology preview is expected in early May, and general availability is set for the second half of 2021. Also in early May, there will be an update to Yellowbrick data warehouse release 5, with data lake integration enhancements that include native support for cloud object storage (including Amazon S3 and Azure Data Lake Storage Gen 2).

Working across clouds

One of the criticisms of hybrid clouds has been around the disjointed set of technologies and user experiences across private and public clouds. There are different identity and access management approaches, which makes it harder to govern access to data across these environments, and they are typically provisioned differently. Yellowbrick is positioning itself as the first data warehouse for the distributed cloud by introducing a unified control plane that works across the most common cloud platforms. This control plane increases the simplicity of running multiple data warehouses in different physical and line-of-business locations across an enterprise.

The Kubernetes cloud native architecture provides Yellowbrick Manager with a single unified control panel to provision new data warehouse instances in different clouds, manage existing infrastructure, and monitor deployments.

Yellowbrick said Yellowbrick Data Warehouse queries run 3 times faster on Andromeda-optimized instances for private clouds than on the company’s first-generation architecture. The performance improvements are also the result of the company switching to new AMD 64-core CPUs, increasing bandwidth between server notes, and adding dual proprietary Kalidah scan accelerator cards that offload workloads such as filtering, compression/decompression, and row/column transposition from CPUs.

“The Andromeda instance is the fastest platform to run Yellowbrick on,” Cusack said.

The company is optimizing deployments to take advantage of differences across the big cloud providers. For example, if a public cloud instance has high-performance storage, Yellowbrick can adapt to the underlying hardware to take advantage of those benefits.

Yellowbrick’s approach

Yellowbrick is focusing on improving the management aspects for distributed clouds rather than joining them together directly.

Competitors tend to fall into two major categories: legacy data warehouses such as Teradata, Oracle, and SQL Server or cloud-only data warehouses like Snowflake, Amazon Redshift, and Microsoft Azure Synapse. Yellowbrick seeks to differentiate itself by taking a unified approach to addressing distributed data challenges like data gravity and sovereignty requirements. It was designed from the ground up to optimize price/performance across bare metal and virtualized infrastructure in public clouds.

Yellowbrick product marketing VP Justin Kestelyn says Yellowbrick has an advantage over legacy vendors that have been doubling down on older architectures and have a harder time with real-time analytics. Traditional cloud vendors have not been aggressively pursuing hybrid options for analytics at the edge.

“We’re winning business from all of these vendors by providing the best price/performance and the lowest deployment risk,” Cusack said.


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