Microsoft boss: World needs more computing power

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Microsoft chief executive Satya NadellaImage source, Getty Images

The world is rapidly "running out of computing capacity", the head of tech giant Microsoft has warned.

Satya Nadella said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that superfast quantum computers were needed to solve some of the most difficult problems.

Mr Nadella cited the quest to create a catalyst that can absorb carbon, in order to help tackle climate change.

Such a discovery, he cautioned, would be unlikely without an increase in computer processing power.

"Moore's Law is kinda running out of steam," Mr Nadella told assembled delegates, referring to the maxim that the power of computer chips doubles every two years.

He added that quantum computing was needed "to create all of these rich experiences we talk about, all of this artificial intelligence".

The Microsoft chief executive also took aim at so-called "re-skilling programmes" that don't cater to the needs of the job market, calling them "one of the greatest wastes of money".

Such schemes, which are designed to retrain those whose professions have been lost to globalisation or automation, are often "done without a true understanding of where the labour market is going," Mr Nadella argued.

Better teaching

Instead, the India-born chief executive, who took over at the helm of Microsoft in 2014, said that reforming school curriculums was of paramount importance.

"We can with some certainty say that we will need more people graduating from our schools who will need to be comfortable with these augmented realities," he predicted.

"The fact that most curricula in schools still don't recognise computer science like they do maths or physics is just crazy."

Media caption,

UK plans for a superfast modular quantum computer

Mr Nadella added: "We need middle school teachers of computer science of the highest quality."

He also emphasised that artificial intelligence, on which Microsoft is increasingly focused, could be a part of the solution to joblessness, rather than merely its cause.

Earlier, Klaus Schwab, the man behind the World Economic Forum, called for leading tech executives to consider the disruption that their products may cause to economic, political and social life.

"If we act now," Mr Schwab said, "we have the opportunity to ensure that technologies - such as artificial intelligence - sustainably and meaningfully improve the lives and prospects of as many people as possible."