Friday, January 5, 2007

Smaller can be better

I’m stepping outside my guideline again today by bringing you more news. In this case, news about a 1 TB (1 terabyte = 1 trillion bytes or 1 thousand gigabytes) harddrive that will soon be available from Hitachi (1). Incidentally, they’re saying it will initially come in at a price lower than it’s predecessor, the 750 MB HD.

Why does this matter? It matters because there is a direct link between our ability to work with ever decreasing size regimes and our understanding of the nanoscale. If you have kept up with the science underlying nanotechnology you already know that a huge potential for new and improved products exists because at the nanoscale, materials often exhibit properties that are different than their larger versions. Think about all the wonderful advances we generally take for granted due to the relatively scant number of elements in the periodic table; now imagine an exponential increase in the number of properties we are able to incorporate into products.

It also matters because it is another step in what Ray Kurzweil calls “The Law of Accelerating Returns.” (2) Kurzweil states it thus “An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense "intuitive linear" view. So we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century -- it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate). The "returns," such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There's even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth.”

Coupled with the increase in processing power, also part of Kurzweil’s Law, and married to increasingly capable software, expect to see our understanding of the nanoscale increase, and as a corollary, an increase in computing power, which will lead to better materials and medical technologies…and on and on. A tidy little iterative interaction with massive potential.



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