Marshall McCluhan once famously said, “First, we shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” As a professional futurist, I have been trying to explain how some of our tools are getting exponentially more powerful. In turn, these tools are accelerating the advances that will soon shape our future and, by virtue of their findings, necessitate unlearning. Nowhere is this more true than in the field of supercomputers.
According to this ComputerWorld article, supercomputers with 100 million cores and capable of one quintillion calculations per second—or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 for those of you counting at home—will arrive around 2018. This growing processing power is important because it will help innovative researchers, scientists and entrepreneurs design next-generation materials, drugs, bio-fuels, batteries and much, much more.
One area merits special attention and that is in the area of how supercomputers are yielding new insights about the brain. As scientists learn more about how the brain really operates, I am convinced that we will need to unlearn much of what we now think we "know" about the brain.
To better understand supercomputers amazing power, I invite you to watch this two-minute video I put together last year. Although be forewarned, one quadrillion is already rather quaint: