Future of Computers

May 26, 2000 • Volume 10, Issue 20
Do U.S. policies stall innovation?
By Patrick Marshall

Introduction

Two MIT students interact with experimental “wearable” computers developed at the school's media lab. Researchers predict even smaller versions someday will give users access to unlimited information with the mere blink of an eye. (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Victoria Arocho)
Two MIT students interact with experimental “wearable” computers developed at the school's media lab. Researchers predict even smaller versions someday will give users access to unlimited information with the mere blink of an eye. (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Victoria Arocho)

For the past two decades, the nation's unprece-dented economic boom has been driven in large measure by the computer industry. But many experts believe that further high-tech innovation will stall if engineers continue to rely on silicon-based microprocessors, which have limited computational capacity. Other futuristic technologies -- including molecular processors and quantum computers -- are being developed that promise radically better performance. But some industry experts warn that several non-technological roadblocks are also thwarting the pace of advancement. They say vital government funding for research into new technologies has steadily eroded, that the number of U.S. science graduates has plummeted, resulting in a shortage of talent, and that U.S. immigration policy doesn't admit enough foreign computer experts.

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