The Need for Speed — Is There a Limit to Moore’s Law?

Internet 1My Comments: OK, this has nothing to do with investments or estate planning or taxes or what I usually talk about. It has to do with computers.

My computer has sat on my desk now for about 5 years and it works great. But the software is getting a little long in the tooth. Not because it doesn’t continue to do what it was intended to do, but because the world in which it has to function has continued to evolve, and it can’t always catch up. And that causes me to have issues.

At some point I’m going to have to bite the bullet and spend money to upgrade some of the programs I live with every day. I don’t want to spend money this way, but I soon may have to. Either that or quit using my computer and that doesn’t seem like a rational decision.

July 22, 2014 By Sachin Shenolikar

In 1965, Gordon Moore, a co-founder of Intel, wrote a paper that made a big prediction about the future of computers: He claimed that their overall processing power would double every two years.

The rule became known as Moore’s Law.

Moore’s Law has been correct for the most part. The speed and ability of computers have increased exponentially over the past decade, resulting in major innovations in everything from mobile apps to cloud computing to healthcare. And they’re getting even faster.

But with this rapid progress, there lie big questions about how far Moore’s Law can go. Will computer speed keep doubling forever? And will the pace of change eventually reach a speed that’s faster than humans can handle?

Real Business spoke with R Ray Wang, founder and chairman at Constellation Research Inc., to find out what we should expect as big changes hurtle our way in the very near future.

Where do we stand right now as far as Moore’s Law?
Wang: We are still moving at that pace of change — very quickly. Some people believe that this [rate] will continue until 2020 and then taper off. You also have people like Ray Kurzweil, who’s talking about how the world’s going to move toward the pace of change all the way until the very end, where human beings and computing are merged into one. I don’t know if we’re going to get that fast, but we’re definitely at that pace of change that is [consistent] with Moore’s Law.

What are some things that you’re predicting in relation to this rate of change?
Wang: The big technology trends have to do with mass personalization at a scale that delivers extra relevance. Let’s say you passed a Starbucks 15 times yesterday and didn’t go in, but you have a Starbucks card. [The business is trying to figure out] what was going on in your head, because you’re at a Starbucks almost every day. Do we make an offer to get you to come back in? Do we note that one of your friends is sitting there, maybe we should connect you to him and say, “Hey your friend’s here, buy him a cup of coffee.” That’s what we’re talking about.

That level of connectivity is beyond the Internet of Things. Devices are [becoming] self-aware. Big data business models are providing information and insight that are changing the world, and changing how you would look at things. Today, if you’re driving around and run out of gas, there is a [mobile] service that will find the nearest gas station. More interesting is if you’re a gas station owner you may pay $5,000 dollars a month for [data on] people who are subscribed near you. You can then make an offer for a hot dog and a coke [to entice them to come to your business]. We’re seeing that kind of shift in the marketplace.

What should we expect at the peak of Moore’s Law?
You should expect a world that is moving toward systems that are intent-driven. Today we’re delivering on relevance, but we can build systems that are much more tailored to what you want or think you want to do.

What are the biggest challenges we face with Moore’s Law reaching its peak?
The only factor that is going to be in the way is, can consumers manage that much change so quickly? How fast can humanity respond, and will we revolt? Will we say no? We might have a movement of people that might just say, “Hey, we don’t want to do this.” We’ll go from digital natives to digital warriors to digital holdouts to a whole class of people that are completely digitally disengaged.

Do you think that could actually happen?

Wang: Very much so. They don’t want to be tracked, they don’t want systems to tell them what to do, they don’t want to be managed by a “big brother” system and approach. So, they’ll just say, “Hey, let’s disconnect” and go back to how things were.

That being said, do you believe there’s a limit to Moore’s Law?

Wang: The only limit to Moore’s Law is time and energy. We may run out of the ability to produce at that rate of change. We might run out of energy sources to keep up with Moore’s Law.

The surprising thing about Moore’s Law is that these things are happening very quickly, and we’re not always aware of what that means. We don’t always see the implications, and I think it’s really important to privacy, identity, and security for people to really understand the implications and what it all means.