Androids may dream of electric sheep, but inside the mind of the machine learning visualisation software ‘Poplar’, you’ll discover a blooming micro-climate of fluorescent digital neurons and coral-like computerised patterns drenched in a UV glow. Poplar was created by the Bristol-based company Graphcore, a team formed of engineers, developers and several four-legged mascot puppies.
In simple terms Poplar is a data graph, albeit an abstract one, built as a way of visualising the complex inner workings of Intelligent Processing Units (IPU) which process visual data; an MRI scanner for an artificially intelligent ‘brain’, if you will. Resembling a planetary environment micro-dosing on LSD this particular graph is a mapping of the deep learning tool ResNet 18 and the routes their IPU’s follow to communicate with themselves. Here, millions of vertices and edges have been converted to further understand, and make understandable, how machines process thought and reason in technicolour.