PORTLAND, Ore. Intel Corp. is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2008, and Intel CTO Justin Rattner devoted his keynote address at the Intel Developer Forum on Thursday (Aug. 21) to "what the next 40 years of technology might look like."
"I'm addressing how we expect to see the gap between human intelligence and machine intelligence close over the next 40 years," said Rattner.
Intel commissioned futurist Ray Kurzweil to describe in a video presentation the quickening pace of technology that "may go exponential in the next few years -- where technology is literally advancing on a moment-by-moment basis."
Rattner predicted that CMOS devices would not run out of steam until device designers switched from using electronic charges to encode information to something like the spin of individual electrons -- an advance Rattner said remains in the distant future.
"If you are using charge to represent information, then CMOS is the most efficient architecture," said Rattner. "So our near-term focus is on improvements [in] processing."
Rather than burying circuitry in bulk silicon, Intel said it is progressing with the development of its Tri-gate transistor, a surface device that wraps a 3-D, high-K metal gate around a vertical thin-film channel, which Rattner said the company might turn to at features sizes below 32 nm.
"The important thing is that all these vertical structures will be on the surface, no longer being built in the bulk," said Rattner. "Once you are on the surface, you could even add III-V materials" like the indium phosphide material Intel uses for its silicon lasers.
Beyond CMOS, Rattner predicted that the amount of charge stored for each bit would become so small as device sizes shrink that a new representation for information will be needed -- something besides charge.
"Will future electronic devices be charge-based like they are today for our CMOS technologies, or are they going to rely on some other quantum property like spin? Or might they use some sort of molecular technology where we use molecules to perform the logic function?" Rattner asked.
The Intel CTO also predicted that devices might be possible over the next 40 years that would give robots the ability to behave more like humans. Some devices could endow robots with unique abilities that humans don't have, such as the robotic sense called "pre-touch."