Insights on the future of tech from Qualcomm’s Dr Paul E Jacobs

Funny this week that driving home from a startup event at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View I should stumble on to an NPR broadcast from the very same location, but this time featuring an interview with the very smart, very well-spoken Dr Paul E Jacobs from Qualcomm.

On the subject of being well-spoken, Dr Jacobs points out that he is essentially an engineer at heart and being confident on large stages or in front of TV cameras didn’t exactly come naturally: it’s something he’s worked at. Now isn’t that heartening?

Talking through his history, Dr Jacobs offers a clear direction on how exactly he became so prescient in understanding that the telecom industry would require mobile computing chips that would support a lot more than just speach. He explains how in the early 90’s (ie. around the time where the internet was just a networking experiment linking a bunch of colleges) he was working on speech optimization and speech compression algorithms. This planted the fundamental idea that speech was just one potential form of data that can flow through the pipes of a telecom network. It took the better part of 20 years for the smartphone to arrive and finally relegate speech to just another app on the phone we keep in our pocket. Dr Jacobs’ vision has helped ensure that the Qualcomm is a major provider of the chips needed to support this revolution.

So, what happens when you ask someone this prescient about the future?

Interesting Dr Jacobs concentrates a lot on healthcare. For instance, he talks about a sensor so small it can sit in your bloodstream and notice the indicators for a heart attack which typically show up two weeks before the event. Then what does it do? Give you a call on your smartphone and tell you to watch out!

He talks about advances in artificial intelligence and cognitive computing (with a fleeting reference to IBM Watson). Robots that learn by being physically guided rather than being programmed. He talks about just how close we are to producing computer systems that can mirror and reproduce human thought and potentially finally conquer the Turing Machine.

I’d strongly encourage you to take the time to listen to the whole fascinating interview:

More info on KQED

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