Intel's Futurist Brian David Johnson Looks Out To 2020-2025

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Brian David Johnson is the futurist at Intel.  His job to look ahead 10 or 15 years and predicting how people will be interacting with processors and computers. To do his job, Johnson uses ethnographic research, technology exploration, trend analysis, and even science fiction to provide Intel with vision and direction of the future.
According to Intel, by 2020 processors going to become small enough that their cost and size will no longer be a concern. Prior to the company’s annual Developer Forum kick-off, a presentation was shown that gives the example of “Compute Moves to Zero” – that is, the point where computing is totally ubiquitous with our daily lives.

Intel often uses the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) as a platform to discuss its long-term vision for computing as well as more practical business initiatives.

At this year's event, Brian David Johnson, Intel's futurist and author of, Science Fiction Prototyping was the moderator for a panel discussion on the next five to ten years.

As seen in the picture below, Intel details the path that processors are taking. There are the biggest computing spaces, data centers, then PCs and laptops, and as chips have gotten smaller, mobile devices. Then, there’s nothingness, or “zero”, where computation is apparently ubiquitous and just a given for everything.

Justin Ratner, Intel's CTO is quoted as saying, "Science and technology have gotten to the point where what we build is only limited by our imaginations."  In the not-to-distant future, our watches, our eye glasses, and even our clothing will be equipped with processors and sensors.

Compute Goes To Zero

In 2013, Intel hopes to bring 14 nanometer chip technology to the market, and following Moore's Law this shrinking is projected to continue.  This means we could see 10nm in 2015, 7nm in 2017 and 5nm in 2019.

At 5nm, equally powerful current processors would go from being the size of a dime to about the size of an LED on your PC chassis. Essentially this means, chips could be produced so small, and their costs would be far less than they are today, potentially resulting in chips simply being everywhere. Not to mention spread into the poorest countries.

Brian David Johnson
Brian David Johnson - Image Source: Intel

Currently though, this is all science fiction, because for Intel and other companies to pull off these sorts of successes, there are major obstacles to overcome – and according to Johnson, that is precisely why he is employed as a futurist at Intel.

“My job is to look 10 to 15 years out and come up with a vision as to how people will interact with computers.”

As the leader of Intel's Tomorrow Project Johnson takes his research out into the world and gets people talking about the future.  Using science fiction as a guide, Johnson explains how science fiction can be used as a guide to predict or prototype the future, "You know that if we write science fiction based on science fact, it allows us to explore the human, cultural and ethical implications of technology. It enables us to ‘prototype’ our ideas. Even the futures that we don’t want are good fodder for this. Think about the combination of authoritarianism through constant surveillance, linguistics, changing history books – all of those awful things can be encapsulated by ‘Big Brother.’ George Orwell’s 1984 gave us a symbol of a future we didn’t want to see, and it’s part of the culture now."

SOURCE  Intel Channel Top Image - Christopher Barnatt

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