The Gap in Super Computers

The appearance of an amazing new supercomputer, Summit, put together at the National Research Laboratory in Oak Ridge by the US Department of Energy places the United States well ahead in a field where China has predominated since 2013. And it does far more than that.

Interviewed today in Vzglyad’ ru by Nikita Kovalenko, Russian academician and applied mathematician Boris Chetverushkin describes this turn of events as a revolution equivalent to the spectacular appearance of digital computing in the late forties and early fifties. Not surprisingly Kovalenko’s article on the subject is entitled “Russia is behind the USA by hundreds of Petaflops”.

This gigantic leap ahead in computational power gives the United States the capacity to do in a split second what all the computers in the world would together take all of 305 days to achieve. The computer works 1 million times faster than a notebook. Chetverushkin does not mention it, but this has massive implications for cypher warfare. The ability to make calculations at enormous speed simultaneously enhances the prospects for cracking the cyphers of rival Powers, as the Russians are only too aware of, though the academician is too polite to mention it. Russia’s only saving grace is its ability to head the field in the creation of algorithms, a crucial component to cypher making and breaking.

None the less at a certain point speed makes everything possible. The last spectacular breakthrough that occurred in the mid-1970s was the appearance of the Cray 1A and the IBM 3033 that enabled the National Security Agency to break into the highest level cyphers in the Soviet Union which ultimately made it possible to lure the Russians into invading Afghanistan as they knew exactly the Politburo’s state of mind and most acute anxieties that they could easily play upon. It was at this point that the Soviet Union’s fate was ultimately sealed.

We are no longer in that world. The Cold War was the most bitter struggle short of open military conflict between major Powers that we have ever seen. But Putin’s forward policy of the last decade has placed international stability in jeopardy at a time when he cannot count on either steady economic growth, ever rising oil and gas prices,  nor technological advance. The emergence of this extent of American superiority combined with a major resurgence in economic growth and self-sufficiency in energy resources is a wake-up call to those in charge of Russia that they have been on a hiding to nothing.