Skip to main content
Search IBM Research
     Home  |  Products & services  |  Support & downloads  |  My account
[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]
 Select a country
 IBM Research Home
 IBM Almaden Home
[an error occurred while processing this directive] Entrevues
 · English
 · Português
 · Español
 · Français
 · Communication
 · Scenarios
 · Technology
 · Multimedia

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Mr. Future (Translated to English)

Estadao Maga.zine
João Magalhães
14 June 2003
[an error occurred while processing this directive] Página 1 de 1



Many technological revolutions that became reality or are going on were long ago anticipated by the Brazilian engineer Jean Paul Jacob

By João Magalhães.



Fotos: Arquvio pessoal e Arquivo AE

No começo dos anos 80, Jean Paul profetizou o surgimento da câmera digital e do computador portátil. Como ele previu, nas casas inteligentes de hoje, fala-se até com utilidades eletrônicas.

It's been more than ten years Jean Paul Jacob has been spying the technology's tomorrow, like a modern Leonardo Da Vinci or Júlio Verne. And almost everything he anticipated took place. Times ago, for example, he announced we would be talking to the walls.


And he was right. In today's intelligent houses, we chat with the refrigerator, with the stove, with the computer, with closets, with the door's knob, and so on. In the early 80s, he prophesied the appearance of the digital camera and of the portable computer. In sketches he made at that time, there are records of the current notebooks: audio, icons, color and animated images.


The big cars entirely controlled by microchips, like a Porsche and a Volvo equipped with wireless networked computer, through which we can view movies, listen to music, download files, access the internet, add a destination to the navigation system and transmit information to our homes or offices, were already in his head long before the factories started to present them.


Since 1963, Jean Paul leads the Research Center of IBM in Almaden, California. Those who have a glimpse of him, with his beard, glasses and leaning on the cane that helps supporting his two hundred and something pounds, must find him solemn. Quite the opposite. Jean Paul is an irreverent good sport. He never loses his good temper, even in embarrassing situations. In 1969, when he was getting ready to open the First Brazilian Seminar of Data Processing, in Hotel Gloria, Rio, a power failure turned off the lights. Without blinking, he delivered his speech for 200 people in the dark anyway.


Humor, good humor, rules his life. He even coupled with Millor Fernandes and extracted laughs of a select and grave audience. A full blown philosopher, he is. He frequently wanders through his inner world, thinking about issues sometimes serious, sometimes not so much. Follow some of his thoughts:


"Could it be that some things only seem difficult to us because we don't understand them, or is there an inherent complexity to certain problems, as Mathematics explains us? Will I someday understand Quantum Physics? What is humor? Is it a contradiction of the logic rules? Look this thought, inspired in semantics: "This is a pronoun, like that: therefore, if you don't know what that is, this will make no sense to you".


Despite his name, Jean Paul is from Brazil. And lest no one doubt it, for he is a passionate adept of caipirinha made of cachaça. Of his childhood, in the neighborhood of Consolação and Jardim Paulista, in São Paulo, he remembers tenderly his friends and teachers. Coming out of his teens, his five years at ITA come to mind - the Air Force Technological Institute, where he graduated in electronic engineering.


Awarded with many titles, he is proud of the "Distinguished Alumnus in Engineering and Computer Sciences" one, of Berkeley University. At age 66 his mission is to exchange ideas with executives, point out trends of the market and  requirements of consumers.


With a razor-sharp tongue, always ready to launch an irony, he gave the following interview to Maga.Zine.




What are the most important technological revolutions that were not anticipated by you?

This is a great question, for we learn a lot with our mistakes. One of the revolutions I did not anticipate was the popularity reached by the internet, and how this changed our lives. In my case, I live today in a manner that I could never have imagined until 1995. There is another revolution I did not anticipate, which changed the way I do research and think. But it was not a technological revolution, it was a social-political event - entirely unforeseen - that caused a technological revolution. I'm talking about the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, which marked the end of the cold war. With this, development of IT, which was funded by the military establishment, started gradually to be funded by the entertaining establishment, and the computer also became a tool for making films with special effects, and particularly games. Today, a game console is a very advanced personal computer. Soon we will use these consoles for accessing the internet, do business, etc. Who would say IBM would be designing special super-chips for Nintendo and Sony?



How will the internet grow from now on?

Growth will take place above all through participation of intelligent objects in the big network. During the last year Mr. Gerstner led IBM, the sentence "the internet of the future will be a network linking 1 million companies, 1 billion people and 1 trillion objects" kept being repeated. This sentence ended up printed in mouse pads, and attributed to Mr. Gerstner. But it's something a lot of us believe, and consequently, there will be growth in many areas. The internet will keep being a huge and fantastic network for communications and access to people, information, entertaining and intelligent objects.



How well is the wedding of internet with education, with health? Will we form PhDs over the Web? Will the internet treat our diseases?

As a network, the internet is an amplifier of our intellectual capability, bringing us many more possibilities of acquiring knowledge, including the health area. It may also serve for better monitoring our vital characteristics. There are already shirts with sensors of temperature, heart beats, transpiration, etc, which are connected to the internet. Today you can already buy a can, sorry, a toilet, connected to the internet and equipped with resources to analyze your "output" and transmit the results to your doctor over the internet. PhDs via Web? I doubt it, since it would take off the pleasure and the need of direct interaction between people, when communication is not only made through words, but includes also vocal inflexions, body language (gestures, direction of looks, etc). As to our diseases, for some people the internet will be just yet another disease; for other ones, it will be a mean to accelerate solutions.



And what is your relationship with the internet? Do you shop, or do business online?

My relationship is great. I get information through the internet. But I seldom shop or do business online, since I know a few hacker students whom I don't mind giving my knowledge, but not my money.



Carros governados por microchips, como um Porsche e um Volvo equipados com um computador com rede sem fio, pela qual podem-se ouvir músicas, acessar a internet, adicionar um destino ao sistema de navegação e transmitir informações para sua casa ou escritório, já estavam na sua cabeça antes de serem apresentados pelas fábricas. Assim como paredes e móveis inteligentes.

You talked sometime of the end of the printed book. Until now…

Until now… I'm right. All large book publishers already publish CDs, the salespeople going from door to door, selling encyclopedias, disappeared. The number of newspapers existing in the so-called first world dropped to less than half in the last five years. Standards for electronic books were already agreed among e-publishers (see the page of the National Institute of Standards and Technology). In addition, several electronic papers are already being announced for the next two years (see If electronic paper catches on, the concept of book will not disappear. But you will only have to buy one book in your lifetime. The content will change using a memory chip or the internet. Thus, those who use the book as a bed companion (he, he, he) will still have a book for making them fall asleep. Lastly, as a "coup de grace", we already have monitors with better resolution than paper, and therefore it's less tiring to the eyes to read in a screen than in paper, which was one of the big reasons in favor of the printed book. Additional advantages? The traditional book needs external lighting, the electronic one doesn't. Lastly, if you make a quick and easy calculation, you will see that the cost of storage of a text in a chip is much cheaper than in paper.



You are a scientist of many awards. Which one gave you most satisfaction?

Probably the title of "Distinguished Alumni in Engineering and Computer Sciences" of the University of California at Berkeley. I felt very honored, since the other winner of the award was the inventor of Unix (Ken Thompson), operating system unknown to today's youngsters.



Until when will the virtual world override the physical world?

Until the end of the series of Matrix movies.



In the personal aspect, any good recollection of your childhood and teens?

Yes, friends I miss to this day. Teachers who make deep impressions on me, for their knowledge and/or their way of acting as if they were actors in the theater of knowledge. And my best recollection of all is one from after teens (I thing…): my 5 years at ITA.



What is your daily routine like? You wake up, have breakfast and…

Answer to interviews like this. In fact, my routine is put all ingredients of day-to-day (wake up, eat breakfast, shower, switch on my notebook, etc) in a blender, so they become molecularly interconnected. I use my computer while having breakfast, at the same time that I'm trying to wake up.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]
[an error occurred while processing this directive] Retôrno para entrevistas
[an error occurred while processing this directive]


[an error occurred while processing this directive] Última atualização: 07/21/2011
Jean Paul Jacob:

  About IBM  |  Privacy  |  Terms of use  |  Contact