The Future of Computing: Paradise or Terminator?


If you’re a fan of sci-fi like your humble blogger, then you’re probably familiar with the Terminator series, in which future computers and machines become so advanced that they turn on their creators and threaten to wipe out humanity.

The one thing I always thought about such future visions is that–thank heaven–we haven’t developed the computing power to even make such a scenario possible.  And that is definitely true, but a new announcement makes me wonder if we are drawing closer.

ScienceDaily reports that, “The smallest transistor ever built — in fact, the smallest transistor that can be built — has been created using a single phosphorus atom by an international team of researchers at theUniversityofNew South Wales, Purdue University and the University of Melbourne.

“The single-atom device was described Sunday (Feb. 19) in a paper in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, says the report.  Michelle Simmons, group leader and director of the ARC Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication at the University of New South Wales, says the development is less about improving current technology than building future tech.

“Fifty years ago when the first transistor was developed, no one could have predicted the role that computers would play in our society today,” she continues.  “As we transition to atomic-scale devices, we are now entering a new paradigm where quantum mechanics promises a similar technological disruption. It is the promise of this future technology that makes this present development so exciting.”

Exciting, yes, but also scary.  While single-atom transistors are admittedly far from mass production, the mere possibility that they will be produced is chilling.  Because they will take up so much less physical space, they could conievably be used to construct computers many times more powerful than what we have today.  Such computers could do a lot of good, but they could also be used for nefarious purposes, such as easily cracking passwords and access codes.

What am I being so paranoid about?  To tell the truth, I don’t think we’re ready for computers that operate at such unbelievable speed and with such incredible power.  Is there any doubt that military uses and espionage will be among the first uses of such devices?   Turned into a weapon, such a machine could be the modern equivalent of the atomic bomb in 1945.

Probably the only saving grace is that no matter what happens with this nanotechnology, it will probably happen too fast for us to notice it.

But maybe I’m overreacting.  Someone out there talk some sense into me!



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