Get All Access for $5/mo

Intel's Futurist: We'll Soon Be Living In Computers As the size of a computer chip approaches zero, computational power will be everywhere and in everything, says Brian David Johnson, the resident futurist at Intel.

By Catherine Clifford

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

With technology changing at a rapid pace, the thought of tomorrow and all the tomorrows after it can be hard to process. Scary, even. For Brian David Johnson, the resident "futurist" at Intel, however, the prospect of what tomorrow will bring is thrilling.

"What I tell people is No. 1: they shouldn't be worried about the future," Johnson said at The Feast social innovation conference in New York City. "The future is going to be awesome because people build the future. Technology doesn't get to decide. People get to decide."

Projecting the future, or future-casting, is the work of combining social science, research, technical data, economic trends and, yes, even science fiction, to model a prediction of the future. In his position at Intel, Johnson looks specifically at how humans will interact with technology 10 to 15 years out.

Related: In Nanotech's Small World, Big Opportunities Abound (Video)

To hear Johnson tell it, he has always been a futurist, even before landing his gig at Intel 10 years ago. Johnson, whose father was a radar tracking engineer and mother was an IT specialist, was teaching computer courses at a community college in Manassas, Va., by the time he was 10. He worked on interactive television in Scandinavia and the U.K. before the Internet existed, developing technology to give viewers the option to vote and buy things on their television monitors. Johnson has also directed movies, written books and is an acrylic painter. It is his combination of technical expertise and affection for storytelling that make Johnson uniquely qualified to be a futurist.

Intel
Jimmy the robot being designed and built.
Image courtesy: Intel

In Johnson's vision of the future, humans will be in control, but living in a world drastically changed by new technology. The biggest driver in tech will be the ever-shrinking size of the computer chip, which he predicts will effectively approach zero by 2020. Five years ago, the average computer chip was approximately 22 nanometers across. Now, it is 14 nanometers across on average. By 2020, the computer chip will be 5 nanometers across, projects Johnson. A chip that is 5 nanometers wide is 12 atoms across.

Johnson says smaller computer chips means almost anything can be turned into a computer. "We will be surrounded by computational power. So for average people, for average users and consumers, you will be living in a world where you are essentially living in a computer, where you are surrounded by intelligence."

Related: Your Next Cocktail Could Be Concocted By This Robotic Bartender

On the micro side, computers will be inserted in all manner of health-care related devices, says Johnson, dreaming up a Band-Aid that has a computer chip built in. "We can actually monitor our health on an hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute basis," he says. For instance, if a child has the flu, then a stickable computer embedded into a Band-Aid will allow a parent to monitor a child's temperature, blood pressure and heart rate.

From a macro perspective, Johnson says that the computational powers available a decade from now will allow us to build more sophisticated, nuanced and larger cities – what Johnson calls megacities. "We can actually put computation in the infrastructure of the city so that we can make the city not only greener but more efficient," he says, referencing innovations that could prevent the waste of electricity and water from cracks in building architecture. "Our cities could become computers and when our cities become computers we can tune them," he says.

As Band-Aids and cities become computers, so too will some of our companions, says Johnson. His favorite technical gadget, in a manner of speaking, is Jimmy, his walking and talking robot. Jimmy is a 3D-printed robot, "born" about a month ago, with open-source code, available for updates, personalization and iteration. There are two other "Jimmys" in various stages of production currently: One in Portland, Ore., and two in Boston. A prototype for a 21st century robot, Jimmy represents a first step toward social robots.

Related: How Google, Apple, Facebook and Others Use Your Personal Data (Infographic)

Catherine Clifford

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC

Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Branding

ChatGPT is Becoming More Human-Like. Here's How The Tool is Getting Smarter at Replicating Your Voice, Brand and Personality.

AI can be instrumental in building your brand and boosting awareness, but the right approach is critical. A custom GPT delivers tailored collateral based on your ethos, personality and unique positioning factors.

Growing a Business

He Immigrated to the U.S. and Got a Job at McDonald's — Then His Aversion to Being 'Too Comfortable' Led to a Fast-Growing Company That's Hard to Miss

Voyo Popovic launched his moving and storage company in 2018 — and he's been innovating in the industry ever since.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

Apple Reportedly Isn't Paying OpenAI to Use ChatGPT in iPhones

The next big iPhone update brings ChatGPT directly to Apple devices.

Business News

Is the AI Industry Consolidating? Hugging Face CEO Says More AI Entrepreneurs Are Looking to Be Acquired

Clément Delangue, the CEO of Hugging Face, a $4.5 billion startup, says he gets at least 10 acquisition requests a week and it's "increased quite a lot."

Business News

Sony Pictures Entertainment Purchases Struggling, Cult-Favorite Movie Theater Chain

Alamo Drafthouse originally emerged from bankruptcy in June 2021.