When crazy is OK

Science lesson: Just because a technology idea is bizarre doesn't mean it's wrong

I know a little something about crackpot technology. See, back in the 1980s, I worked at Omni, the now-defunct science/science fiction magazine that delighted in all manifestations of crackpottery. We wrote about cryptozoologists armed with blurry Bigfoot photos, "face on Mars" believers, alien abductees, cold fusion proselytes, and more.

We also interviewed world-class scientists and Nobel prize-winners who had achieved startling breakthroughs in the course of their distinguished careers. And -- surprise! -- their ideas often sounded crazier than anything coming from the tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy-theory crowd. The point being, you can't always judge an idea based simply on plausibility.

It is in that spirit that we present this week's "12 crackpot ideas ... that just might work", a collection of seemingly fringe technologies that, in time, could remake IT. That is, if they don't fall flat on their faces first.

The process of picking the 12 topics was a blast. Associate Editor Jason Snyder issued a challenge to InfoWorld's editors and writers: Identify your favorite "out-there technological innovations ... with at least some possibility of having a broad-reaching impact on IT." The ideas -- accompanied by eloquent justifications and clarifications -- came pouring in, ultimately leading to the 12 essays presented here. The whittled-down list is an eclectic mix, ranging from the almost certifiably wacky (superconducting computing) to the downright feasible (desktop Web applications).

Of course, not only is the list crackpot, it's also incomplete. That's where you come in. I invite all interested readers to write to us here on our Crackpot Tech blog about any not-ready-for-prime-time technologies that might some day make a difference. But please, no Bigfoot sightings. Omni magazine folded in 1995.