Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing to work with smaller, task-specific models. This transition coincides with improvements in computer hardware, where specialized components like graphics and tensor processors have supplanted the once all-encompassing central processing units (CPUs). When concentrating on specific tasks, the specialized models and components can accomplish their objectives rapidly and with lower energy consumption. 

Building specialized AI models

As graphics processing units (GPUs) and tensor processing units (TPUs) have established their niche in the hardware landscape by excelling in specific tasks, AI models are now following suit. Acknowledges that not all AI tasks necessitate the same level of adaptability found in large language models (LLMs) like GPT-4.

Specialized AI models are meticulously designed for particular domains or tasks, so their precise expertise gives outstanding results. This move away from the one-size-fits-all philosophy promises to make AI more accessible and pragmatic for a wide array of applications, ranging from medical diagnostics to natural language processing and beyond.

The physics behind the shift

The rationale behind the shift towards specialized AI models is grounded in the fundamental laws of physics. CPUs, while versatile and capable of handling a broad spectrum of tasks, come with inherent constraints. Their generality has a larger silicon footprint, increased energy consumption, and lengthier processing times. 

Specialized AI models are like finely tuned instruments. They put their computational resources precisely where they are needed, resulting in more operations per unit of time and energy. This specialization means AI tasks are faster and significantly reduce energy usage, a new consideration resulting from more environmental awareness.

Specialized computing hardware

GPUs and TPUs are the clearest illustrations of hardware accelerators. These chips are perfectly engineered to execute fewer tasks but with unmistakable efficiency. With parallel processing, GPUs and TPUs are the best for tasks that involve extensive data manipulation, such as image recognition, natural language understanding, and deep learning.

What’s coming in LLMs?

Looking ahead, rather than employing these colossal models for every conceivable task, the AI community is increasingly inclined to make use of simpler models for most applications. Concentrating on specific tasks offers several advantages.

First and foremost, they are more energy-efficient. Sidestepping the needless computational overhead associated with large language models means specialized models operate with a smaller carbon footprint. 

Secondly, specialized models are more cost-effective. Given their specialization in particular domains, they necessitate fewer computational resources, leading to lower operational costs.

Alexander Procter

February 22, 2024

2 Min