Is computer technology moving fast enough?

Almost universally the answer to this question is: Yes, absolutely! Technology is moving at an incredible pace – at the “speed of thought” some say. Moore’s Law (search the internet for “Moore’s Law” for more details), formulated in 1965 and updated in 1975, has been accurate for 50 years in predicting the exponential growth of computer performance. Moore’s Law predicted that the number of transistors that can be packed into an integrated circuit would double every couple of years. This has far reaching implications, from the number of megapixels in your digital camera and the ability to deposit checks from your mobile phone, to navigation systems used by drones.

Having said this, the raw power of computers helps enormously, however, it is not the solution to everything. Someone has to write applications. These are programs written by humans that naturally will encapsulate human flaws. It is very common to hear in the news things such as that a disruption in stock trading or chaos in an airline reservation system was caused by a “computer glitch”. Most of the time, this really means that there was human error in a computer program.

There have been huge advances in computer applications that track and leverage on the power of microprocessors predicted by Moore’s Law. However, I would argue that there are some cases where perhaps technology is moving too slow. I will discuss one example that I am sure will resonate with everyone.

It is hard to believe that after decades since the advent of modern computers, passwords are the mainstay of computer security. Most likely everyone reading this article has experienced the “password nightmare”. A myriad of passwords written in sticky notes, forgotten passwords (at the worst possible moment), hacked accounts, etc. Experts provide advice on how to manage your password. The most common advice is to create cryptic passwords like “This#must$be@Joke”… Oops, the password cannot contain words found in a dictionary and it should contain letters and numbers, so it better be something like “GFt#kHgT$33@Ef20”. How am I supposed to remember this? So here come the sticky notes. Experts tell us that passwords need to be changed often (say every 90 days), and that you need to use a different password for each account that you use. All this is tragicomic and it results in many people getting frustrated and using passwords like “123456” and “password”. Amazingly, many industry surveys show that these are the two most popular passwords (search the internet for “most popular passwords”). There is new technology that helps authentication with devices such as finger print readers or iris readers, however these technologies are still not well developed. Let’s hope that at some point in the future, passwords will become obsolete and computer scientists will develop authentication that is easy, reliable and secure. It will not be soon enough in my book.