A few months ago we posted a series of pieces on the future after reading Raymond Kurzweil's "Singularity" book. One of the trends that Kurzweil, a self-appointed "futurist," has pointed to as having a major impact on accelerating technological change in the coming years is the continued decline in the price of computing power.
While we raised some questions about some of Kurzweil's projections (and others have raised bigger ones), we saw recent evidence that he's on point with respect to computing power.
In our most recent edition of Popular Science--the annual "Inventions of the Year" edition--two former invention award winners singled out the low cost of computing as driving ever more sophisticated inventions by garage and backyard tinkerers. One, Taber MacCullum (there's a good first name to appropriate for your next kid), in discussing the need for a better computer-human interface than the keyboard, said he was sure it would be invented soon: "[W]hat we're calling garage stuff now is what we were calling Bechtel Labs 10 years ago. Think of what can be done now--it's staggering."
The other inventor, Mike Howe, in predicting a practical vehicle that gets 200 mpg, said, "[r]ight now, there is the capability as a one- or two-man team to do the kind of innovation that has never been seen before. Five to 10 years ago, if you wanted computing power to do what the big boys did, you had to work for them, which meant you were constrained by inside-the-box thinking. Now we have the computing power, for a thousand or two thousand bucks, that they have."
Now, if one of these guys can just figure out how to cap a gushing oil pipe at 12,000 feet under the sea!