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Implications of Emerging Micro- and Nanotechnologies
garded information superiority as a key enabler of victory. However, the ongoing “information revolution” is creating not only a quantitative, but a qualitative change in the information environment that by 2020 will result in profound changes in the conduct of military operations. In fact, advances in information capabilities are proceeding so rapidly that there is a risk of outstripping our ability to capture ideas, formulate operational concepts, and develop the capacity to assess results. While the goal of achieving information superiority will not change, the nature, scope, and “rules” of the quest are changing radically.1
From the analysis in Chapter 3 it is apparent that the current rapid increase in the ability to handle information will continue at least for the next decade and beyond. The doubling of computing power every 18 months and the even more rapid increase in information transmission rate and storage capacity will lead to an increase of at least 128× in the amount of information that can be gathered and processed. Today’s smart weapons will seem “mentally challenged” 10 years from now.
The trend in information density is important because so many information technologies are foreseen to have a significant impact on future military operations. Examples include these:2
Autonomous and adaptive algorithms for resource scheduling, mission planning, and mission execution
Heterogeneous databases, software, integration, modeling and processing techniques
Advanced tools and algorithms for modeling and simulation (M&S)
Satellite onboard data processing and storage
Nonvolatile random access memory
Mass storage memory (including optical storage technologies)
Radiation hardening and shielding of components
Plug-and-play hardware and software technologies
Beyond this relatively near-term trend, the committee anticipates that emerging nanotechnologies will enable even more revolutionary long-term changes in how we obtain and use information. Exploiting these advances will be an important and challenging task for the Air Force.
The reduction in size of systems from computers to cell phones is a continuing evolution for electronic systems. The significance of this miniaturization goes well beyond just the smaller size and reduced weight. Batch fabrication, the