Consumers in these developing markets don’t care about processor speed and memory capacity, but “user value,” Rattner said. To find out what types of computing support people really need, Intel is deploying anthropologists, ethnographers, engineers, and developers to places like China and India.
In China, for example, because parents value education so highly, many view computers as potential “distractions” or “temptations” for their children, Rattner said. So Intel has developed the China Learning PC, a computer that can be locked in “educate” mode (blocking non-lesson-related content) or “open” mode (allowing all uses) and also can be flattened into a tablet, so children can use it to learn how to write the Chinese characters.
In an onstage interview with CNBC’s Michelle Caruso-Cabrera on Thursday afternoon, venture-investing wizard Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital offered opinions on innovation and investing that surprised some U.S.-centric investors.
Some of the most attractive proposals from entrepreneurs looking for venture backing, Moritz said, come from immigrants rather than American citizens, since immigrants are generally “hungry” with a “restless ambition” to succeed, whereas America’s culture of indigenous innovation is in an inevitable “state of decline.”
In the last keynote speech of the conference, inventor Ray Kurzweil ventured a number of optimistic predictions, many based on his conviction that progress in genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and information technology will give scientists the power to endow virtually any object with intelligence and extend human consciousness indefinitely, remaking both the developing and the developed worlds.
By 2010, he predicted, computers will essentially disappear, becoming fully integrated with other objects in our environment. Intelligent objects will develop personalities, and we will interact with them using spoken language.
By 2029, Kurzweil said, $1,000 will buy a computer with a thousand times the computing capability of the human brain, and a computer will finally pass the Turing Test. “Nanobots” inside our bloodstream will work ceaselessly to retard disease, and neural implants will give us full-immersion virtual reality.
These offshoots of the “GNR” (genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics) revolution should also be so cheap and easily accessible that they will also spread to economically disadvantaged countries. And when that happens, Kurzweil argued, technology would make the world truly “flat” and equitable.
Additional reporting by Paul Angiolillo and Kevin Bullis .