Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Moore: exponential growth of Goodness!

Moore's law.

It's a concept that I like very much. It gets more and more.. interesting, the more I think about it. It' widely known, but gets much less hype than it really deserves.
Think about this; you might equal the effects of mr Newton's law of gravity with Moore's law.. To push a slightly ambitious analogy, just consider only one difference between these; the medium they affect.. Gravity affects anything that has mass and is a force that accelerates objects with mass toward each other..

The most notable effect of this law is that if you let go of your cup of coffee it will most likely, depending on your location, accelerate toward the gravitational center of the earth.

Moore's law is not a law of nature, it is more a close relationship between the fundamental production process of transistor-based technology, the development of these methods, and economical laws of supply and demand, that have, in a so remarkably linear way, scaled down the size of transistors so they shrink about 50% in size every 18 months. This is not a simple predictable development that can go on forever (and should really be named 'Moore's tendency' to be more correct)

The immediate effect this has is to continuously affect the size, price, and the raw material cost per-transistor in micro-chips. This translates nicely into the daily life so that anything that can be done with a transistor-based chip, WILL be done with a transistror. And every 18 months these chips WILL be smaller, more powerfull and less hungry for electricity and in general better suited for whatever purpose you can put them to. With the increasing computational- , and micromanaging power disponible on a global scale, this will be a force that accellerates the flow of information, and speed up the automation of machines, and virtually every other process that can be controlled or enchanced by microchips.

This could be percieved as 'nothing unusual', given that this development is an everyday phenomenon, just like gravity it's nothing much to get worked up about, it's just there, right? The coffe cup hits the floor, and new line of computers hits the store every season time and time again. Right?


Even though these two phenomenons are very difficult to compare, there is one difference. Both forces can be said to accelerate something, either matter, or 'human technolgical development'. But the most striking difference is that the acceleration caused by gravity is very abruptly ended when the gravitational objects finally impacts into each other, (or, if we're talking the inter-planetary level here, enters an orbit of some kind). But, Moore's law, if it holds true, and microchips continue to develop and increase in efficency, the acceleration of human development, will NOT stop, until the Moore constant is declining. There are many, many arcicles which discuss the future of the Moore constant, the rate of increase or decrease, or (not unlikely) be completely obsoleted, by a new fundamental computational paradigm change. Who knows..

But for the mental excercise, just consider the possibility that Moore's law might predict the future, for as long as the next 100 years (not very likely, but still)..

The effect would undoubtly be that everything you ever imagined, that involved microchips, will be reality, and very quickly, become yesterday's news. Everything chip-controlled will become increasingly small, until the very barriers imposed by fundamental physics rules will protest, and then things will become more and more complex, still pushing the rules of the physical playground. Just imagine something being as small as you can imagine, and then you will probably be in the right neighborhood, but still a tad too big.

When thinking along these lines of miniaturization, a new and exiting development will also take place, moved by the same economy/technology push and pull as the computer advances are governed by: the next obvious step will be to integrate the advances in computational and ultra small technology with the most complex mechanism yet known to humanity, man himself...

Try this. Imagine the Darwinean evolutionary theory of the journey from mokey to man mixed with the consequences of Moore's law..... done thinking?

I wanna be a cyborg.