SAN FRANCISCO--I hope Intel warned the Luddites and pessimists away at the door, because the chipmaker had a lot of bullish statements Thursday about its belief that computers will become smarter than humans.
At the Intel Developer Forum here, Intel Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner showed off a number of technologies in computing, robotics, and communication that he cited as evidence that Ray Kurzweil's concept of "singularity," when machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence, is impending. Demonstrations spotlighted the wireless transmission of electrical power, dextrous robots with new sensory abilities, a direct interface to the brain, programmable materials that can be used for shape-shifting devices such as resizable cell phones, and silicon photonics that enables chips to communicate with photons rather than electrons.
"We're making steady progress toward Ray Kurtzweil's singularity," Rattner said.
Intel of course remains at its heart a chipmaker, and Rattner began with a brief tour, assisted by Mike Garner, senior technologist for Intel's emerging materials group, of various successors to the current complimentary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) process used to make processors. Future ideas that pack ever more computing capacity into a given volume include spintronics, quantum computing, carbon nanotubes.
Long live CMOS And CMOS itself still has some legs, Rattner said, with recent progress shrinking the size of circuitry elements to their current size of 45 nanometers, or billionths of a meter.
"When will silicon run out of gas? Can it fuel this exponential growth for 40 years to come?" Rattner asked. "We got very close to the limit at 45 nanometers. We were able to innovate our way out of what seemed an unsolvable problem...We've got some challenges ahead of us. It looks like 32 nanometers is on track, but you go beyond that and it looks a little bit iffy."
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