Evolution Shift
A Future Look at Today
September 20th, 2006

Always Faster

Just when you thought you had caught up with the ever increasing speed of technology, along comes another breakthrough to make you feel unnerved by the speed of change.  This week it was the stunning announcement of a breakthrough in chip technology that turned my head.  As I read the articles about this, the thought balloon over my head would have been a big “WOW!!” with multiple exclamation points had I been in a comic strip.

Researchers from Intel and the University of California, Santa Barbara announced they had been able to create a silicon based chip that can produce laser beams.  This means that it will be possible to use laser light rather than wires to send data between chips. For the first time, researchers were able to bond a silicon chip with a wafer that emits light when electricity is applied. To translate, this means that information will move 100 times faster at a fraction of the cost.  There has been recent discussion as to whether Moore’s law — that computing power doubles every 18 months and also drops by half in cost — which has driven the growth of computing over the past few decades was finally coming up against limitations of physics.  Well, this answers that question!

Lasers have been used to transmit vast amounts of data via fiber optic cables over long distances, but the speed of data transmission between chips in the computer has been much slower.  Now, with this breakthrough computer engineers will be able to literally rethink and reconfigure computer construction which will result in significantly faster computers.  This reminds me of the generally accepted fact regarding jet fighter planes over the past 20 years that the pilot is the weak link in the complex computerized system of a billion dollar plane.  Everything around the pilot can compute and react faster that a human can, so the human becomes the soft point or slow processing point of the supersonic weapons system.  Computers will now be faster than even the most impatient users could possibly demand.  Supermen and superwomen, all faster than a speeding bullet at the keyboards trying to go faster than their computers, and failing in the effort..

All of this falls into the category of optical computer communications.  It will also allow significantly greater amounts of data to stream through data networks to and from homes and offices at much faster speeds and at far less cost.  This is an exponential equation of faster, cheaper and more data all at once.  This development also points to the possibility of a new generation of super computers that could share data internally at speeds much faster than today, which is staggering considering the speeds at which they currently operate.

We now live in the Age of Shift, a time when the speed of change has accelerated so much that it has actually become part of the environment.  I know that a lot of people get unnerved by this ever increasing speed that shows up in our lives, particularly in technology. Just go with the flow, there is no other choice. All the trend lines seem to be going vertical in terms of speed, power, market penetration of computers and wireless devices.  We are approaching a time in the near future when a singularity can occur in terms of time, distance, speed, connectivity and consciousness.  A new dawn for humanity.  To reference the Chinese proverb, we are not just living in ‘interesting times’ we are living in transformative times.

 

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In times of global uncertainty and disruption it takes a futurist to provide context and understanding.

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