As you may know, there is an inherent limit to the size transistors can be shrunk. This is known to some as the 16nm wall, the wall where Moore's law is supposedly going to end. As I understand it once the transistors get that small there is no way to insulate them. Also, you cannot get smaller than an atom. If anyone has ever heard of the disappearing table I think it is pretty related. Basically, if you take a table and half it a large number of times the parts eventually get smaller than an atom or even the building block of an atom. So, once you halve it enough times it does not exist (the limit approaches zero).
Regardless, aside from more efficient programming and some other things the only way to advance past 16nm is a move to something other than the transistor. I have heard that carbon nanotubes are one option but it seems that quantum computing is the way to go and possibly the end all of tech. I have heard that a quantum machine with 6 atoms (or a number close) could instantaneously do basically any calculation you threw at it. There are already prototypical machines that are manipulating one atom and I hear they are the size of a large room. I hear that using cryptography with a quantum machine would be basically unbreakable, perhaps everyone could be assigned a quantum private key as a replacement for Social Security numbers and other forms of identification.
Do you think quantum computing is the next step? Things I have read seem to say it is and that in the next 20+ it may be mainstream. I hope nothing very bad happens to end my life (or a large number of people, the world, etc.) before this kind of tech comes to full fruition. Imagine what it could do for medicine or any other field.
Yup. Optical computing will definitely be next. IBM in Switzerland is already doing experiments with optical computing.
And on an atomic level, IBM Switz. has found out a way to start and stop atoms (like 1 and 0 binary digits). Apparently at the expo keynote, they gave a few powerful people 500GB rings. That would be neat!
Imagine how much storage could fit in a 3.5" drive space! Petabytes, exabytes here I come!!!