Whereas conventional chips are wired to execute particular "instructions," the TrueNorth juggles "spikes," much simpler pieces of information analogous to the pulses of electricity in the brain. Spikes, for instance, can show the changes in someone's voice as they speak—or changes in color from pixel to pixel in a photo. "You can think of it as a one-bit message sent from one neuron to another." says one of the chip's chief designers. The chips are designed well not for training neural networks, but for executing them. This has significant implications for consumer AI: big companies with lots of resources could focus on the training, which individual TrueNorth chips in people's gadgets could handle the execution.
Where do we go from here? Is it even reasonable to order $50k worth of components and put together our own high-performance, reasonably-priced blade cluster? Or is this folly, best left to experts? Who are these experts if we need them?
And what is the better choice here? 16-core Opterons at 2.6 GHz, 8-core Xeons at 3.4 GHz? Are power and thermals limiting factors here? (A full rack cupboard would consume something like 25 kW, it seems?) There seems to be precious little straightforward information about this on the net.