Information: The Ultimate Frontier

Science  12 Jan 1979:
Vol. 203, Issue 4376, pp. 143-147
DOI: 10.1126/science.203.4376.143


Although long-term forecasting is best left to science fiction writers, scientists can illumine basic technological trends, as in the 100-year scenario presented here. Computers will continue the "small is beautiful" trend, but they are not likely to follow the semilog trail because extrapolation from the current base would lead to absurdities such as a computer cost of 3/100 of a cent. To achieve inexpensive high speed and Lilliputian size, new techniques are likely to replace silicon technology. The ultimate computer might be biological and patterned on DNA. Future computers will reacquire information when needed rather than store it, and we will see personalized products at mass production prices. Light wave communication will broaden communications exchange, but software that is more friendly to human users will be needed. By taking over knowledge distribution, electronic information systems will let universities concentrate on new knowledge. More importantly, they will expand everyone's right to information and free expression through the existing media system and to protection from misuse of information by others.