"FUTURE? IS THERE ONE?" —
AN IMPORTANT PAPER ON COMPUTING, DELIVERED IN JAPAN IN 1985 AS A MEMORIAL TO THE JAPANESE PHYSICIST YOSHIO NISHINA, MENTOR TO SIN-ITIRO TOMONAGA (WHO SHARED THE 1965 NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSICS WITH FEYNMAN AND JULIAN SCHWINGER). In this paper, Feynman discusses some technical possibilities for making machines, covering three topics; Parallel computing, including discussions of the Cray supercomputer, the Cosmic Cube, and MIT's "Connection Machine"; the possibilities of reduction of energy loss, including the problems of cooling associated with large computers; and the possibilities in reducing the size of computing elements. The present draft is an excellent example of why this sort of material, rather than a nearly finished draft, is so interesting, as we get a nice look into how Feynman's work evolved from early drafts to the finished product; the first few lines of the manuscript show for example, that the original three sections of the paper were "A. Parallel. Describe present machines
", "B. Software. Vision, Speech etc.
", and "C
. Hardware. Atoms. Swan neck machinery. Reversible.
The published version of the talk begins "It's a great pleasure and honor to be here as a speaker in memorial for a scientist that I have respected and admired as much as Prof. Nishina. To come to Japan and talk about computers is like giving a sermon to Buddha. But I have been thinking about computers and this is the only subject I could think of when invited to talk."