Thursday, February 02, 2006

CRA on SoU; and, Musing About the Future

I generally don't do politics on this blog (but I do it passionately via email), but Bush's State of the Union speech is generating a little interest in the computing research community.

The CRA has a response to the "American Competitiveness Initiative". W explicitly mentioned "promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources". He also proposed to "double the Federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next ten years".

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Will it mean more money for quantum computing? Fusion research? Particle accelerators? Or will it be more short-term, more applied?

It should be obvious by now that the biggest change currently under way is mobile & ubiquitous systems. If you're (still) working on those areas (I spent four years at Nokia, and think highly of the company as well as the importance of the area), my hat's off to you. Supercomputing, from Google-sized data systems to SETI@home to the grid work at SDSC and ISI, was rightly highlighted. The potential of both of these topics has only just begun to be explored. Both supercomputing and mob/ubiq will change society profoundly in the next decade.

Then what's next? Come 2015, what are the next big topics? My guess is robotics and quantum computing. I don't want to go into all of the reasons right now, but I think robotics is finally about to blossom, and I believe quantum computing is closer to reality than most people realize. In my opinion, robotics/autonomous systems will start having a big societal impact within about a decade (yeah, I know, if you count industrial robots, it already DOES have a big impact, and the research itself has had countless spinoffs). While a useful quantum computer probably will not be on the market, within a decade its debut will seem inevitable, and many, many researchers will be scrambling to be the first to build and deploy such a system.

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