Recently there was news about a supercomputer in Japan taking the crown of the best in the world, for now. However, I believe that this beast of a machine has NOTHING on what is potentially the most powerful computing device, but yet lies dormant.
I could see a company like Google or Amazon getting behind such an effort. I can see universities, governments, organized crime wanting to get involved too. Here are some of the possibilities:
– pedestrian science like curing cancer and folding proteins (NIH, universities)
– search for Ramsey numbers
– run simulations or nuclear explosions (governments)
– run molecular dynamics simulations
– factorize large numbers to break encrypted messages (governments, criminals)
– off load your company’s computing costs to unwitting users across the world by disguising it as a protein folding problem (corporations)
I can for see browsers in the future allowing you to throttle how much “free work” you are willing to do for organizations you don’t even know (it’s not really free because of energy costs). Or, perhaps users can charge for the work being done on their computers! This could open up a whole new market, a new type of economics of computing! For example,
In exchange for lending your CPU cycles, the New York Times might give you free access to their content, and the New York Times could be using your computer to run computations for China, who needs to simulate new materials design for their aircraft fleet.
This is great stuff for a technothriller novel. This reminds me of the many sci-fi stories I’ve read that involve aliens/machines using humans/brains as a computational substrate. We’re not quite there, but it’s happening to our personal computing devices. Our laptops, phones, tablets could be enslaved by shadowy organizations in order to come up with the next super mega-virus, or crack RSA, or run massive DDoS attacks (oh wait….).
Here I go again, letting my imagination run amok…