The power of technology is growing all the time and in the next twenty years will surpass all other growth spurts put together. How ready are we to utilise this technology usefully? Not very I fear.
To be quick and clever demands the ‘planned’ deployment of technology, a deployment where data is the primary asset rather than cpu’s, memory, I/O or even people and applications. We must use technology in its fullest way and in doing so we must be guided, not restrained by history. However, a little history never does anyone any harm.
Around 1965 a gentleman by the name of Gordon E. Moore (Gordon founded Intel four years later) figured that every year or so the number of transistors (approximately equating to raw power) per unit area of silicon within a computer chip, doubled and he prophesised that this trend would continue for a fair few decades. In fact, he was proven spot on until around 1975 when he modified the prediction to where the doubling period increased to two years. In simple terms this means that computers have doubled their power at intervals of approximately twenty four months or so for some time! A further twist on the same story is that in effect, the cost of processing information is getting smaller at the rate of ten times per twenty years. Now a simple extrapolation shows that by 2010 computer power will be inexhaustible and free!
It’s interesting to note that this massive progress in the capabilities and cost effectiveness of computers has not been matched in any other form of technology. Take the car industry for example. If automobile technology had advanced along the lines of our computers, then life would be somewhat different. Instead of taking a quick nap during lunch break, we would be able to drive our space-enabled car a couple of times round the moon and back. Our family car would be so cheap (according to Michael Tracy to whom I had the privilege of listening to nearly twenty years ago on this subject) that paying parking fees in London would be non-sense; we’d just dump the car on the street and buy another for the return journey. As with every fantasy however, there is a serious problem – the car itself would be so small that a human would not be able to get inside.