I first discovered Moore’s law in 1983. Then, I realized I could use it as one of my tools to accurately predict the future of technological change.
Moore’s law: put your chips on what’s possible
At the time, few were paying much attention to Moore’s law. Over the decades, the press has declared the death of Moore’s law.
They stated that it is impossible for scientists to make processors smaller and more powerful at the same exponential rate.
This news usually comes from a tech conference where industry executives share their frustration in going to the next level. We have recently seen major news reports of this kind.
I am always reminded of a great quote:
The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated
Although that iconic remark is a misquotation, it does aptly summarize the recent “rebirth” of Moore’s law.
But to my mind, the purported phoenix-like rise from the ashes of one of the technology’s best-known principles really misses the mark so far as anticipatory thinking is concerned.
We need to be asking more pertinent questions and looking at bigger issues that command greater attention.
Moore’s law revisited
Moore’s law deals with processing power, the speed at which a machine can perform a particular task. It was named after Gordon E. Moore, co-founder of Intel and Fairchild Semiconductor. But you probably already know that.
In 1965, Moore published a paper in which he observed that, between 1958 and 1965, the number of transistors on an integrated circuit had doubled every 18 to 24 months.
At the same time, Moore noted, the price of those integrated circuits dropped by half.
Although the formula held true for some 50 years, critics have been quick to point to possible death knells over the past several years.
In effect, they argue that the more powerful and smaller the transistor, the more expensive the chip is.
Whenever I hear this, I write an article reminding us the word “impossible” is a bet against human creativity and ingenuity. And they will be wrong.
Last year IBM proved them all wrong by doing the impossible. They introduced a new chipset, keeping Moore’s law going.
Intel just did it again by recently unveiling its long-anticipated Cannonlake chipset.
The Intel chips are a mere 10 nanometers, down from 14 nanometers used in currently available chips.
The product debut, announced Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, underscored the reality that Moore’s law was still, in fact, alive, well and “flourishing,” as Krzanich put it.
Great news! But…
The fact that Intel’s announcement, at the very least, waters down the obituaries for Moore’s law, is certainly good news.
The fact that we contunue manufacturing processing chips to increasingly stringent specifications bodes well for anyone who uses technology in some capacity (meaning all of us).
But I also feel very strongly that it keeps us from seeing the bigger picture. Instead, we need to ask better questions. The factors encompassed by Moore’s law simply no longer matter as much as they once did.
We depend less on advances in chip technology because of the exponential growth of the capabilities of the overall ecosystem of which chips, bandwidth, and digital storage are merely one part.
Two ways to look at it
On the one hand, not long ago, a laptop was a stand-alone device, as its storage and processing power derived solely from its chips.
But not anymore. For one thing, we now use a smartphone or tablet to access supercomputers in the cloud.
This allows us to go far beyond the processing power of the individual chips in our devices
That’s how we can use powerful tools such as Apple’s Siri, the Amazon Echo, and Google Home to tap into the capabilities of the world’s supercomputers with just a few spoken words.
On the other hand, in the recent past, we all relied on the power of the chips in our devices. But today we have the computing power of the world in our pockets or on top of a table. And it has no limit as it once had with the chips inside a device.
All this boils down to the fact that, despite Moore’s law’s focus on the processing speed of the chip, computing power is no longer limited to the computational “brute strength” of the individual device.
On the contrary, It’s more specialized. The overall computing power will continue to improve functions such as distributed computing, digital storage, advanced bandwidth, wired and wireless, and network processing.
It also comes down to looking past the surface when seemingly central issues are raised.
In this case, whether Moore’s law is dead or alive and kicking is less relevant when we compare it with other advances in technology.
And it begs the questions:
What issues and developments are you and your organization examining at a deeper level to identify game-changing insights and opportunities?
Are we all paying sufficient attention to the transformational advances in the whole technology ecosystem, or needlessly focusing on just one or two elements?
What do you think about Moore’s law and the future of technology change? Leave your opinion in the comments below and let me know!