Intel futurist says power of cloud, computer intelligence will benefit government services in ways not yet imagined

Brian David Johnson Image: Intel.com  The Tomorrow Project and Futurism at Intel

Brian David Johnson Image: Intel.com The Tomorrow Project and Futurism at Intel

Nearly half of the adults in America carry a pocket-sized computer, also known as a smart phone, with apps that do everything from locating the closest Thai restaurant to overlaying 3D maps to see the view from a street corner as it appeared many years ago.  The “app economy” has created a startup movement in San Francisco where the mayor has stood with developers announcing they are setting government data free for the betterment of society.   One of Hollywood’s most popular stars will soon play the role of tech icon Steve Jobs, the late inventor of the iPhone produced by Apple, the world’s most valuable company.    Twenty years ago all of this may have sounded like science fiction, but if you ask Intel futurist Brian David Johnson, planning a future based on new technologies requires a rich imagination.

Next week Johnson will give the keynote address at a government forum on cloud computing in Sacramento where he will talk about his work, called future-casting that includes a combination of science fiction, social science and engineering.   He is an engineer, calls himself a pragmatist and says he does not predict the future.  Future-casting is a process for developing a vision for the future considering research, global trends and what people expect to do with technology in ten or twenty years.

Intel designs computer chips years in advance of when they actually reach the marketplace.  In a phone interview, Johnson said that within the next 10 years, the size of chips will be so small they will be able to be installed almost anywhere, in clothes, on a coffee cup or on a person.

“To think the size of computational intelligence approaches zero… when you get computing power that small it means that we can turn anything into a computer and we have to ask ourselves what we want to do.  What is the effect we want all of this computational power to have on the lives of people,” said Johnson.

One of Intel’s aspirations is to touch every human on the planet and improve life in some way, he said.

In 2010, Intel sponsored the Tomorrow Project, a series of conversations about the future that include scientists, science fiction writers, celebrities and anyone interested in participating.   The first project was launched in Germany, followed by projects in Seattle, the United Kingdom and Brazil.   Johnson says conversations about the future have taken on their own life with Tomorrow Projects spontaneously starting  in high schools, junior high schools and even elementary schools.

“One of the things we learned is when you start talking to people about science fiction based on scientific fact as a way to prototype and think about the future, people get very excited,” he said. “There are kids getting excited about science and excited about the future through the Tomorrow Project, actually writing stories about the types of futures they would like to live.”

What will cloud computing in government look like in the future?   Johnson says that as we become more surrounded by data-driven intelligence about our lives, perhaps gathered by our devices, cars or even clothing, the power of aggregating information to the cloud has the potential to result in benefits and government services we have not yet imagined.

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About Bill Maile

Bill Maile has worked as a public information officer and promoter of good government and IT solutions in California. Now he publishes Techwire.net, a blog site and newsletter about the public-sector tech industry in the state. Previously he served as communications director for the state Chief Information Officer and the California Technology Agency. Prior to working at the Agency, he was chief deputy press secretary for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and has spent more than 15 years working in executive offices throughout state government. He has worked for the State Senate, the California Attorney General and Department of Justice, the Secretary of State, Department of Insurance and the State and Consumer Services Agency which oversees the departments of General Services, Consumer Affairs and Fair Employment and Housing, among others.

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