Sunday, July 30, 2006

Charles Stross on future shock

I interviewed British sf writer Charles Stross last week and we were talking about the dangers of writing near-future sf/getting caught out by technological developments.

Earlier this year when I interviewed Jim Frenkel, he told me about the series of Isaac Asimov stories where Asimov predicted that computers would get bigger and bigger instead of smaller and smaller.

Stross had this to say...

"In the case of Asimov, what he as a non-specialist didn't realise, he hadn't looked at the information science underpinnings of it and realised that the speed of light is a limit on the propagation of signals in electrical circuitry, so if you make the circuits smaller you can have them switching faster and at the same time, because they're smaller they're consuming less electricity and less power, so again you can cram the circuits closer together.

"This was expressed as a law by a guy called Gordon Moore - Moore's Law - he went on to co-found a small company called Intel.

"I think it's reasonable to forgive Issac Asimov for not recognising this because ... he was writing before the invention of the microprocessor, in fact I think he was writing before the invention of a transistor, which really brought the issue into focus, but it is something we have to beware of."

The full feature will appear in Articulate tomorrow.

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