The Machine Intelligence Revolution Takes Shape

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The Machine Intelligence Revolution Takes Shape

Three disruptive computing technologies dominated the thinking of technologists in 2020:

  • Quantum computing,
  • Domain-specific architectures (mostly in AI), and
  • 5G (which will finally unleash truly ubiquitous embedded computing).

These technologies are not new.  Fred Rogers and Richard Lalich discussed all three in their 2013 book Ride the Wave.  However, each is reaching a level of maturity where we’ll start seeing “accelerating returns” kick in.

Quantum computing research is still a slow, complex journey into a magical world.  But we've seen breakthroughs this year.  Admittedly, the technology is still in what we call “the vacuum-tube era,” but several companies are demonstrating very rudimentary “quantum supremacy.”  That means quantum computers are finally beginning to do what no conventional computer could ever hope to do.

Similarly, 30-plus new semiconductor technologies used to accelerate the computing of various workloads with much less energy are emerging from research labs.  These architectures are especially important if we are to cost-effectively realize the promise of AI & machine learning.  Their impact on price-performance is expected to unleash new commercial applications that were nowhere near cost-effective just a year ago.

And in the 5G world, one of the few happy surprises that occurred during the COVID-19 crisis was people's acknowledgment of four things: 

  • the need to be hyperconnected,
  • the need to be able to work anywhere,
  • the need to get health care whenever needed, and
  • the need to access a logistics infrastructure that works autonomously.

One of the big takeaways from this experience has been that we need better wireless networks and new advances in mobile connectivity. Therefore, our appreciation of the wireless industry and wireless technology as a foundational component of digital transformation has become significantly greater since the pandemic was announced.

Importantly, 5G will be built differently from legacy telecom.  It will use open hardware, software virtualization, and containerization.  And it will be a heavy consumer of AI and machine-learning technology.  So, telecom development will come to focus on the same issues as the rest of the U.S. technology industry.  That is, the actual technology that is used to build 5G and beyond is going to be much more dominated by widely used IT and cloud technologies than "legacy telecom" has been.

Notably, industry and technology are just now getting to the stage to build many game-changing solutions that visionaries imagined 30 years ago at the beginning of the Dot-Com era...

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