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CONDUCTED JULY 2001
Ever since I can remember, I've had a passion for
technology. It began as a ham radio operator, where I helped implement one of
the first Touchtone-operated mobile phone services, to working at TV and radio
stations, to working on commercial pager networks, building broadcast radio
stations, and then getting into computers by building my own, I've always been
intrigued by what electronics could do.
Question 2: Tell us a little about the origins and background of the Rapidly Changing Face of Computing (RCFOC).
The "Rapidly Changing Face of Computing" technology journal is very much an
extension of my interests in technology, and in my desire to "spread the word"
and help others understand and appreciate its potentials. In 1986 I began
sending out informal "Tidbits" each weekend to my friends at work, chiding them
to consider how some of the then-radical trends and technologies (such as PCs)
might change our business. In not too long, a thousand people within the company
had signed up on the mailing list, and interest continued to grow dramatically.
Question 3: There are so many developments taking place in the field of electronics and computing, it is almost impossible to keep track of all of them. How do you filter your content and decide which technologies you are going to discuss on the RCFOC?
As the Internet and the Web grew, many people talked about "disintermediation"
-- the effect of removing the "middleperson" from many types of transactions.
Indeed, we've seen that happen with some types of transactions for some
businesses, such as at bookstores and travel agencies, but the cries that
"editors" would be disintermediated never seemed to come true. In fact, the
explosion of "data" on the Web has done just the opposite -- there's SO much
information out there that it demands "filtering," and human editors still
represent the best content filters and aggregators available.
Question 4: The RCFOC takes full advantage of the Internet medium. What advantages do you think that the RCFOC has over traditional paper based content?
The RCFoC has in fact turned into a child of the
Internet. Originally, when it was a company-internal journal, it relied on
proprietary internal mail to get to its readers (it has always been a completely
electronic journal, as I believe in "walking the talk.") At that time I did most
of my research in a well-stocked corporate library from printed publications. As
the Web developed, though, and as the rate of technology and business change
continued to increase, I found myself increasingly weaned from the print
publications because they just weren't timely enough. I couldn't afford to read
about something that happened months before, and expect to keep my readers
current. So increasingly, print publications went by the wayside, and today 98%
of my research is conducted online.
Question 5: What plans do you have for the future of the RCFOC?
By intent, I don't "plan" the RCFoC; I let it evolve naturally, and I sometimes
marvel at some of the directions it's taken me. For example, I never planed for
the Internet and its Web to become a significant element of what we discuss --
that happened naturally (and initially somewhat surprisingly) as a result of
"following my nose." And I never planned a "radio" version -- when the first
highly-compressed audio-on-demand technology hit the Internet, I recorded one
issue and put it out there to help people understand that it was possible to do
this. I was so swamped with readers demanding that this continue, that the
Web-based audio-on-demand version continued from that day forward, although the
technology has evolved from time to time. In fact, to the best of my knowledge,
the RCFoC is the first and longest-running weekly technology "radio" show on the
Question 6: The RCFOC has repeatedly emphasized the rapid growth of wireless, portable Internet access. Won't the small screen size and slow access times of wireless technology set a limit on the growth of this medium?
You're right -- today's small cell phone screens, low
wireless bandwidth, and clunky input devices (phone keypads) put a significant
crimp on wireless access. But with the (eventual) implementation of the 2.5G and
3G wireless infrastructures, and with continuing advances in portable technology
(including virtual screens projected directly into our eyes, more computer
power, better battery life, voice input, novel "keyboards," and more), the
literal face of pocket computing will continue to evolve and become easier to
Question 7: What do you see the Internet looking like in the near future (within in the next decade)? Do you see broadband becoming ubiquitous? How can we solve the "last mile" problem of slow internet access?
I think the Internet will continue to look much like it does today -- an
aesthetic and relatively easy way for people to connect with a world of personal
and private information. Oh, the interfaces may well evolve (3D comes to mind),
and (hopefully) search engine technology or other ways to get to just the
information we want, will get better. But it will be the eventual ubiquity of
broadband, always-on connectivity that will make the greatest difference. If you
have ever had DSL, cable, or other always-on connectivity at home (or if you
were to lose it at the office), you'd begin to appreciate just how much we can
benefit from the Web if we know it's instantly available, a click away. (For
example, it's been a long time since I've rummaged for the heavy Yellow Pages
book -- with an always-on connection, the online versions are faster, more up to
date, and I never have to go hunting for the book!)
Question 8: Many have speculated that Moore's Law will run out of steam within the next few years, yet others have stated that it might continue for the next three decades. How long do you believe that Moore's law will last?
You're certainly correct that many have forecast the death of Moore's Law during
its 35-year reign. Yet it has remained amazingly consistent, even recently with
people bringing ever more persuasive arguments that it must slow down, as we
approach seemingly fundamental size limits. The thing is, people are endlessly
inventive, and every time we come up against a technological blockade, some
enterprising individual who just doesn’t' know any better finds a way through,
or around, each successive "wall." And I don't think this will end!
Question 9: Ray Kurzweil and Hans Moravec have provoked much discussion over the subject of Artificial Intelligence. What are your thoughts about AI, and Kurzweil's predictions?
I respect Ray Kurzweil's writings immensely -- he provides a reasoned and
detailed analysis based on established technological trends, of how and when our
computers will likely reach, and then exceed, the complexity of the human brain.
Question 10: What is your opinion of molecular nanotechnology? Do you subscribe to the view postulated by the Foresight Institute, of molecular assemblers and nanobots?
The concepts behind nanotechnology are so powerful, yet so in their infancy,
that it's hard to imagine what the results will be or when they might come to
fruition. On one hand, we already use nano machines in common products (the
airbag sensors in our cars). But the potential for building machines that can
build other machines at the atomic or molecular level (nano-assemblers) is so
vast, that if it comes to pass, the basics of how (and where) we manufacture the
goods that drive our economies, as well as how we repair and potentially enhance
ourselves, will change.
This interview was conducted by Sander Olson. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of CRN.
Copyright © 2002-2008 Center for Responsible Nanotechnology TM CRN was an affiliate of World Care®, an international, non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization.