The Millennium ExperienceChronicle of the Future

Chips are down in Silicon city

26.01.24: AT A SOMBRE press conference today, the mayor of San Jose declared Silicon Valley to be a Rust Belt.

Once the gleaming epicentre of the cyber revolution, the valley has fallen on hard times. The mayor, desperately seeking low-interest loans from Washington to rebuild its shattered economy, finally admitted the obvious.

The unemployment lines, boarded-up buildings and hordes of homeless speak volumes of the ghost town.

"Do you remember when computer power doubled every 18 months? When the hardware you bought was obsolete in a year? Those days are gone."

The latest industry figures bear him out: for the first time in history, the growth of computer power has been flat. This has caused a slow, painful haemorrhaging of high-tech firms away from Silicon Valley. But why did the balloon finally burst?

Physicist Michio Kaku, who has been predicting this day, said: "The rapid growth of silicon chips was due to the ability of physicists to etch tinier and tinier transistors onto a wafer the size of your fingernail. But this could not possibly last."

Transistors shrank to the size of molecules, but silicon transistors are unstable at the molecular level. Thus silicon hit a brick wall.

Since the warnings in 2015 from the American Physical Society, Silicon Valley's engineers have been taking stop-gap measures and desperately trying to squeeze every ounce they could out of silicon.

"What finally did them in was the laws of physics," said Professor Kaku. "Computer engineers used to thumb their noses at such notions. They thought computer power would continue to grow and grow. Well, physics has now exacted its revenge."

Several trillions of dollars, and the wealth or poverty of billions, rest on which technology will dominate the 21st century. Singapore, St Petersburg in Russia