Future shock

Let's get small

"Nanotechnology will topple Moore's Law and bring unimaginable changes in IT." Marc Lurie President, Foresight Nanotech Institute

Some people are concerned that Moore's Law -- the idea that computing power doubles every 18 months -- may start to reach the point of diminishing returns over the next five years as current semiconductor manufacturing techniques bump up against the limits of how small transistors can be shrunk.

But nanotechnology will take care of that problem, says Marc Lurie. "A whole new set of technologies will come to the fore. We will see semiconductors and network systems derived from human ribosomes," which are biological components that manufacture protein.

He predicts that within 10 years, advanced nanomaterials will bring about a 1000-fold improvement in network computing power and performance.

Nanotechnology also will bring huge changes at corporate IT shops, which will be scrambling to find material scientists instead of Java programmers. Data centres will continue to be the large presence they are today, but there will be so much computing capacity that companies will be able to "leverage data in ways that are only barely conceivable today".

Lurie sees advances in nanotechnology occurring in two phases. First, nanotechnology will be used to make things that already exist into smaller forms, such as shrinking circuits on chips.

The second phase will be breakthroughs that can barely be conceived of today, such as using biological mechanisms to make artificial mechanisms. An example is an antenna the width of a human hair built right into the fabric of clothes.

"There will be all sorts of opportunities in non-intrusive ways to integrate people with information," Lurie says.

The digital home

"Get ready for on-demand gaming, IP TV and do-it-yourself everything." David Smith Vice president, consulting, alliances and education, Technology Futures

The expansion of electronic gaming and MP3-based services will transform the digital home. Look for do-it-yourself, individual content creation on peer-to-peer networks. These networks will ride on the back of expanding computing power, storage expansion, broadband penetration and Reed's law of community building, which says usefulness of large networks, particularly social networks, can scale exponentially with the size of the network.

The power of the games will expand beyond PCs and game consoles to many other forms and devices. On-demand gaming will become part of many households. IP TV will take off because of broadband penetration and new business models.

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