Possibilities of Nanotech Boggle the Mind

By Jim Louderback  |  Posted 2005-05-26 Print this article Print

Reporter's Notebook: Nano- and biotechnologies can help regenerate body parts and possibly even reprogram the brain, Jim Louderback learns at the Future in Review conference.

CORONADO, Calif.—According to the technologists parading through this weeks dueling futurist conferences, our near-term future will be influenced by advances in data mining, wireless integration, software services and especially the convergence of nano and biotechnologies. But the subject of security—a current and future problem—keeps raising its head. Ive spent the past four days literally being doused by a fire hose of amazing information. Sunday and Monday I spent at Walt Mossbergs "D" conference, listening to Gates, Jobs and a parade of CEOs lay out the state of the now. I then headed off to Mark Andersons FIRE (Future in Review) conference, right down the road here. The first day featured a wonderful chief technology officer round-table discussion and talks from Red Hats Szulik and RSAs Coviello.
Read more here about the first day at FIRE.
Unlike "D," which can be somewhat cliquish, at FIRE, if youre in the door, youre part of the club. After the first day ended, I enjoyed a whirlwind of amazing conversations with everyone from Interop founder (and now winemaker) Dan Lynch to rock-star blogger Joi Ito that extended late into the night. The best thing about the FIRE conference is that everyone here is brilliant—I was easily the dimmest bulb on the tree. No letup on Day Two: By the end, I felt sort of like the Grinch after Christmas, because my head grew three sizes that day. The day started off with a fascinating discussion with Rick Rashid, senior vice president of research at Microsoft. The discussion started with a focus on security. "Weve done a lot on the security side," Rashid said in response to a question about Longhorn. Rashid then pushed the problem down to the PC vendors, saying, "Ultimately, if you really want to believe the system is secure, it has to start with the hardware. A lot of [security] technology came out of my research group, and were working with hardware manufacturers to get it to the marketplace." What is exciting Rashid over the next five years? As a former programmer, he focused first on how software development will change. "The next five years are going to revolutionize how people think about writing software," he promised. "We have begun to develop techniques that allow us to prove properties of very large pieces of code. It is now possible to literally prove thousands of line of C, C++, and if they have that property or not." This will change how programs are both specified and tested. "Before, you could say specs are great, its a hygienic thing, it makes the code better. But now it is something we can test for to prove if something is true or false." In other words, the specification becomes an integral part of proving whether a program works or not. On the testing side, Rashid characterized the QA (quality assurance) department today as antagonistic to programmers. "Testing was a spy versus spy thing," he said. "He is trying to prove that you are stupid" by finding bugs in your code. But with these new techniques, Rashid predicted that "the process of software development will be much more tool-focused, much more specification-focused, and much less dependent on a developer believing he or she did a good job." Application development will move from "software as an art form to software as engineering." Microsoft is already applying these techniques. "Now the Windows team is hiring PhD mathematics into the test group. Its not a job of figuring out how dumb the programmers are but a job of building models." Next Page: Checking out new personal photography software.

With more than 20 years experience in consulting, technology, computers and media, Jim Louderback has pioneered many significant new innovations.

While building computer systems for Fortune 100 companies in the '80s, Jim developed innovative client-server computing models, implementing some of the first successful LAN-based client-server systems. He also created a highly successful iterative development methodology uniquely suited to this new systems architecture.

As Lab Director at PC Week, Jim developed and refined the product review as an essential news story. He expanded the lab to California, and created significant competitive advantage for the leading IT weekly.

When he became editor-in-chief of Windows Sources in 1995, he inherited a magazine teetering on the brink of failure. In six short months, he turned the publication into a money-maker, by refocusing it entirely on the new Windows 95. Newsstand sales tripled, and his magazine won industry awards for excellence of design and content.

In 1997, Jim launched TechTV's content, creating and nurturing a highly successful mix of help, product information, news and entertainment. He appeared in numerous segments on the network, and hosted the enormously popular Fresh Gear show for three years.

In 1999, he developed the 'Best of CES' awards program in partnership with CEA, the parent company of the CES trade show. This innovative program, where new products were judged directly on the trade show floor, was a resounding success, and continues today.

In 2000, Jim began developing, a daily, live, 8 hour TechTV news program called TechLive. Called 'the CNBC of Technology,' TechLive delivered a daily day-long dose of market news, product information, technology reporting and CEO interviews. After its highly successful launch in April of 2001, Jim managed the entire organization, along with setting editorial direction for the balance of TechTV.

In the summer or 2002, Jim joined Ziff Davis Media to be Editor-In-Chief and Vice President of Media Properties, including ExtremeTech.com, Microsoft Watch, and the websites for PC Magazine, eWeek and ZDM's gaming publications.


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