Interested in the future of computing? Then you have a good reason to visit San Diego in October. Actually two reasons if you’re also interested in impending changes to technology.
The first IEEE International Conference on Rebooting Computing (ICRC), which covers future paths for computing as Moore’s Law nears its end, is scheduled for 17 to 19 October. And on 21 and 22 October, IEEE’s flagship symposium on where technology is headed, the Technology Time Machine, provides an overview of what to look forward to, and explores how to leverage what’s coming.
For the past 50 years, most computer progress has rested on two pillars. One is Moore’s Law—that transistors would shrink enough to double chip density every two years or so. The second is the stored-program von Neumann architecture. But the point is being reached where further advances along those two paths are constrained. Transistors and other elements are approaching the atomic level—too small to be of use. Also, the economics of chip fabrication is becoming prohibitive. And power dissipation is becoming so large that the energy to run the next generation of supercomputers and data centers with today’s technology likely would be unaffordable.
To deal with those problems, the IEEE Future Directions Committee formed the Rebooting Computing initiative four years ago. It seeks to explore alternative approaches to computing’s future, drawing on the talents and resources of 10 IEEE societies.
“If you’re going to rethink something like this from soup to nuts, IEEE has all the chefs—people who know all the different areas,” says IEEE Fellow Tom Conte, cofounder and cochair of the initiative.
The ICRC is the initiative’s first open meeting, following four invitation-only summits. “It was time to open up to a broader audience,” says the initiative’s other cochair and cofounder, IEEE Fellow Elie Track.
“The end of Moore’s Law doesn’t mean the sky is falling,” adds IEEE Member Stan Williams, the ICRC’s general chair. “It’s an opportunity for a major restart, because computer scientists and engineers can now work with a broader range of concepts—applying and combining them will transform computing.”
Not all the concepts are new. “Some had come up over the years but were shelved because everyone was concentrating on the traditional path,” Conte says.
The ICRC is expected to bring together about 250 researchers from academia, national laboratories, and industrial organizations to discuss cutting-edge topics involving new materials and their physics, devices and circuits, system and network architectures, and algorithms and software.
About 45 papers are expected, covering such topics as neuromorphic (brain-inspired) computing, in-memory processing, approximate and stochastic computing, novel device physics and materials, and error-tolerant logic and circuits. Also planned are a poster session and a talk on advanced analog and quantum processor research. And there might be “special sessions for wacky ideas,” adds IEEE Member Erik DeBenedictis, a program committee member.
In addition, a workshop on advanced processor developments is slated for 19 October, organized by the U.S. government’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, an organization within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
TECHNOLOGY TIME MACHINE
The fourth Technology Time Machine conference includes sessions on big data, cybersecurity, the Internet of Things, the cloud, the brain, and rebooting computing, as well as a presentation on women’s roles in making the future.
There are two keynote speakers. Sherry Turkle, professor of the social studies of science and technology at MIT, plans to discuss how our relationship with technology affects our other relationships. Alicia Abella, an AT&T assistant vice president of cloud technologies and services for the company’s research organization, is set to discuss some AT&T projects in the works.
Under the theme “Making the Future,” organizers say, the conference will focus on the fact that the future is already here. That is, TTM will deal not just with what’s likely to happen but also with how future events can affect what we are doing today.
The San Diego Section is heavily involved with organizing the conference. IEEE Senior Member Tom Coughlin, director of Region 6 and a member of the TTM program committee, notes that young entrepreneurial professionals will talk about their projects during a dinner session on 21 October.
The conference is expected to draw about 300 people including industry leaders, technologists, government officials, economists, and social policymakers.
“These will not be people doing hands-on product development for today, but who are more involved with the future of product development, marketing, and research,” says Doug Zuckerman, the conference’s general chair.
For the most part, the two meetings will have different audiences, Williams says. “The Technology Time Machine meeting is broader; Rebooting Computing is more specific,” he points out. “TTM influences high-level tech management, whereas ICRC is primarily involved with researchers and research managers.”
And notes Track, “IEEE is an important catalyst to bring together attendees and institutions that may not otherwise share information openly. ICRC and TTM provide unique opportunities to take a peek at the future.”