The Web, computing, and all that  updated October 3, 2005  D. Carrigan carrigan@fnal.gov (subject line must be sensible)

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Tim Berners-Lee
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The impact of the Web, computing, and electronics

The inventions of the Net and the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee (top picture) around 1990 has revolutionized our lives as much as the wide-scale introduction of  TV at the beginnings of our 100 years. The middle picture of the virtual Fermilab historical web marker (click for a larger view) commemorates the introduction of the World Wide Web to the Western Hemisphere by Fermilab and SLAC. The Web and the Net may ultimately have an impact of the magnitude of Columbus's discovery of America. The Web rests on developments in electronics such as the transistor and the integrated circuit, the digital computer that began its' life in the forties, on computer programs, and the rise of large-scale data bases. Many of these developments have been exponential. Moore's law (click for a larger view) charts the number of transistors on a chip. The number of transistors per chip has doubled every 18-24 months. This has had an astonishing impact and surprisingly, this trend may continue throughout our one hundred years. Similar trends hold for digital storage media and databases. Meanwhile computer speeds have increased accordingly.

Taken together these developments strongly impact and interact with the other four great pillars of our 100 years
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Quarks, the Big Bang, Space, and DNA.

The future of computing

Speed - The speed of the human brain is 200*103 Giga computations (floating point operations)/s or flops. (For information on the future of computing and AI see Kurzweil.) That is about 105 times a good personal computer. Kurzweil calls the crossover point when a computer's power exceeds the brain a singularity. A better designation might be  “phase change”. The crossover point could be somewhere between 2020 to 2030 at the present rate of progress. Modern QCD or Quantum Chromodynamics computing machines at Fermilab and elsewhere are already in the 1000 Giga Flops range. Quantum computing is on the horizon and is potentially much more powerful.
Problems and challenges
Computer viruses are a serious and growing problem for computing and the Web. The approaching  Kurzweil “singularity” may pose serious challenges. Qualifying internet and World Wide Web programs and databases is ever more important and difficult. Finally better theories of computing, knowledge, and mind are sorely needed.