Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Return to hardware

Hardware design has been losing luster for many decades in the world of computers. Software has been riding high, partly aided by hype and partly due to the younger crowd plunging deep into apps to make a quick buck and associated fame. Monopolies have been created on inferior operating
systems and office automation, while those who are opposed to it have been chasing public domain noise. Even educational institutions, following the latest ephemeral trends, with half lives of runway fashions, have been churning out courses with little utility for the future. Some have been putting content on-line and others still want students to toil under fluorescent lighting on wooden desks, while picking up the skills of the future.

Computer science has gone astray. Humans, susceptible to incrementalism, have been chasing false dreams on antiquated frameworks. Just as their predecessors, modern humans always attempt to scale inferior performance by massive parallel processing. They stack circuits ever closer and they network computers ever larger in an attempt to squeeze out performance, Meanwhile, software companies, hungry for speed and scope have created clouds of silicon that appear to suck up most of the production capacity in energy. Data have been accumulating in warehouses, some never to see the light of day and others, creating havoc and panic in complex organizations. Economists often worry about bubbles, for some are not so sanguine about rationality but technologists never dream of a software bubble as they presuppose such conditions.

It's time to leave synthesized voices, fake artificial intelligence and bleak games behind and return to hardware. Without two orders of performance improvement, there are very few apps that would move humanity and that can only come from practical quantum computing. Notwithstanding the much anticipated version X of existing operating systems and mobile phones, without innovation in hardware, humans will swim in a sea of mediocrity for ever. There are glimmers of hope, however. Recent news that larger quantum circuits could be built in more direct ways (1) is encouraging.

Educational institutions have an obligation to move society to the future and not just following trends that will fill up class rooms - physical or virtual.

(1) http://esciencenews.com/articles/2016/03/26/unlocking.gates.quantum.computing