It only took five hours for an AI model to design a functional computer

Researchers claim that was 1,000 times faster than what it takes humans to design a CPU

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Illustration: Florence Lo (Reuters)

Artificial intelligence is stretching the human limits of computer design, with a new AI model now creating a complete CPU (Central Processing Unit) in just under five hours, compared to the four years it takes Intel to build one.

The achievement was discussed in a research paper (pdf) dated June 27 and authored by 19 Chinese computer processor researchers from five technology colleges. The researchers say their approach is bound to set the stage for the creation of self-evolving machines, forever change the legacy CPU design flow, and reform the global semiconductor industry.


Their CPU, which runs on an AI instruction set named RISC-V 32IA, can successfully run the Linux operating system (kernel 5.15). According to the researchers, it can “perform comparably” against the 1991 human-designed Intel 80486SX CPU.

Their goal is to beat the latest human-designed CPU, while shaping the future of computing. “Our approach reduces the design cycle by about 1,000x [times] because the manual programming and verification process of traditional CPU design, which consume more than 60%-80% of the design time and resources, is completely eliminated,” the paper reads. It claims that humans take 4560 hours (190 days) to complete the entire design of a traditional CPU, such as the Intel K486.


The new CPU, the paper states, achieves an accuracy of 99.99% for validation tests, while the physical design of the chip uses scripts at 65nm technology to generate the layout for fabrication. Its design decomposes the AI CPU’s control and arithmetic units into smaller functional modules.

AI also got its limitations

However, the RISC-V 32IA chip comes with a frequency of 300 MHz, compared to Intel’s human-made 3.6GHz processor, making it slower at processing computer commands.

The researchers admit this, saying CPUs made using AI models “perform worse than recent processors such as Intel Core i7 3930K.” They plan to boost the performance of what they call “the world’s first automatically designed CPU” by deploying more elaborated augmented algorithms.