When I first discovered Moore’s law in 1983, I realized I could use it as one of my tools to accurately predict the future of technological change. 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, usually stating 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 attributed to Mark Twain is, in reality, 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 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
At the risk of explaining a concept that’s already widely understood, Moore’s law — named after Gordon E. Moore, co-founder of Intel and Fairchild Semiconductor — deals with processing power, the speed at which a machine can perform a particular task. 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.