DeepMind breaks 50-year math record using AI; new record falls a week later

Enlarge / A colourful 3×3 matrix.

Aurich Lawson / Getty Images

Matrix multiplication is on the coronary heart of many machine studying breakthroughs, and it simply acquired sooner—twice. Last week, DeepMind introduced it found a extra environment friendly method to carry out matrix multiplication, conquering a 50-year-old record. This week, two Austrian researchers at Johannes Kepler University Linz declare they’ve bested that new record by one step.

Matrix multiplication, which entails multiplying two rectangular arrays of numbers, is commonly discovered on the coronary heart of speech recognition, picture recognition, smartphone picture processing, compression, and producing pc graphics. Graphics processing models (GPUs) are significantly good at performing matrix multiplication attributable to their massively parallel nature. They can cube a large matrix math downside into many items and assault elements of it concurrently with a particular algorithm.

In 1969, a German mathematician named Volker Strassen found the previous-best algorithm for multiplying 4×4 matrices, which reduces the variety of steps essential to carry out a matrix calculation. For instance, multiplying two 4×4 matrices collectively using a conventional schoolroom methodology would take 64 multiplications, whereas Strassen’s algorithm can carry out the identical feat in 49 multiplications.

An example of matrix multiplication from DeepMind, with fancy brackets and colorful number circles.Enlarge / An instance of matrix multiplication from DeepMind, with fancy brackets and colourful quantity circles.


Using a neural community referred to as AlphaTensor, DeepMind found a method to cut back that depend to 47 multiplications, and its researchers revealed a paper concerning the achievement in Nature final week.

Going from 49 steps to 47 does not sound like a lot, however when you think about what number of trillions of matrix calculations happen in a GPU each day, even incremental enhancements can translate into massive effectivity beneficial properties, permitting AI functions to run extra rapidly on current {hardware}.


When math is simply a recreation, AI wins

AlphaTensor is a descendant of AlphaGo (which bested world-champion Go gamers in 2017) and AlphaZero, which tackled chess and shogi. DeepMind calls AlphaTensor “the “first AI system for locating novel, environment friendly and provably appropriate algorithms for basic duties comparable to matrix multiplication.”

To uncover extra environment friendly matrix math algorithms, DeepMind arrange the issue like a single-player recreation. The firm wrote concerning the course of in additional element in a weblog publish final week:

In this recreation, the board is a three-dimensional tensor (array of numbers), capturing how removed from appropriate the present algorithm is. Through a set of allowed strikes, comparable to algorithm directions, the participant makes an attempt to change the tensor and nil out its entries. When the participant manages to take action, this ends in a provably appropriate matrix multiplication algorithm for any pair of matrices, and its effectivity is captured by the variety of steps taken to zero out the tensor.

DeepMind then educated AlphaTensor using reinforcement studying to play this fictional math recreation—just like how AlphaGo realized to play Go—and it step by step improved over time. Eventually, it rediscovered Strassen’s work and people of different human mathematicians, then it surpassed them, based on DeepMind.

In a extra sophisticated instance, AlphaTensor found a new method to carry out 5×5 matrix multiplication in 96 steps (versus 98 for the older methodology). This week, Manuel Kauers and Jakob Moosbauer of Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria, revealed a paper claiming they’ve decreased that depend by one, right down to 95 multiplications. It’s no coincidence that this apparently record-breaking new algorithm got here so rapidly as a result of it constructed off of DeepMind’s work. In their paper, Kauers and Moosbauer write, “This solution was obtained from the scheme of [DeepMind’s researchers] by applying a sequence of transformations leading to a scheme from which one multiplication could be eliminated.”

Tech progress builds off itself, and with AI now trying to find new algorithms, it is potential that different longstanding math data might fall quickly. Similar to how computer-aided design (CAD) allowed for the event of extra advanced and sooner computer systems, AI might assist human engineers speed up its personal rollout.


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