Moore’s Law, the decades-long informal prediction that has dictated our path of computational development, may finally be at an end. Originally a concept created by Gordon Moore, the concept states that the number of transistors that can be fit in an integrated circuit could double, roughly every two years. In shorthand, computer technology’s capacity can double at regular intervals, creating a path of exponential growth in the industry.
Since the 1960s, our rate of progress has more or less followed that trend, but now, experts are suspecting that Moore’s Law has come to an end (or will after one or two more cycles of development).
So what does this mean for innovative entrepreneurs hoping to make the most of new technologies, or young professionals counting on exponential growth to continue their careers?
Why the End Has Come
First, it pays to look at the motivating factors for the end of Moore’s Law. Why has this informal rule been followed so consistently for so long, only to peter out now?
- Physical limitations. You’ve likely noticed that the capacity of flash drives and other forms of data storage have increased consistently over the past several years, all while maintaining approximately the same size and cost. That’s because manufacturers keep finding new ways to access smaller and smaller spaces. But now that we’re working with a range of mere nanometers, we’re running into a physical limit for what we can fit on a single device.
- The cost of R&D. It may be possible to break through even the barrier of nanometers, but another factor for the end of Moore’s Law is the sheer cost of research and development. It’s becoming increasingly expensive to get to the next stage of advancement. And at this point, the costs are starting to outweigh the benefits, discouraging big companies from trying to get to the next level.
- Preparation for the next step. Researchers are also considering what could be the next step of the process. Rather than relying on straightforward, historical methods to fit more transistors onto smaller and smaller spaces, engineers are turning their attention to more novel, inventive methods to improve our technology.
New Opportunities for Development
You should also know that just because Moore’s Law may be over, that doesn’t mean that progress will come to a halt. There are other opportunities for growth you need to consider:
- The gradual decline. Moore’s Law didn’t disappear overnight, and it won’t disappear over the course of a year. Instead, we’ll see a gradual taper from the exponential growth we’ve experienced for so long. Even when we reach the ultimate plateau, we may be able to see a consistent rate of progress for the foreseeable future.
- Algorithm and software advancements. Hardware isn’t the only way to support technological progress. Finding new algorithms, which can make data more manageable or easily accessible, may allow entrepreneurs to make bigger breakthroughs using the same chips as before.
- Chip specialization. Some chipmakers are engineering chips for specific applications, rather than trying to create the perfect one-size-fits-all piece of hardware. This could allow for a new path of developmental progress, possibly supporting exponential growth for areas like deep learning or autonomous vehicles.
- Clusters and clouds. We don’t need to rely on the technological power of one device when we have the ability to connect multiple devices together. Allowing devices to work together in a cluster, or using software to connect multiple independent devices can give us access to cheap, efficient computing power without the need for sufficiently advanced chips.
- Quantum computing. Quantum computing is an area ripe with misconceptions; it isn’t a perfect solution for computer advancement. However, for specialized applications, it has much to offer. Because it doesn’t rely on the simple binary functionality of transistors, it could represent another area of exponential growth.
- New breakthroughs. There are also computing solutions out there that nobody’s even thought of yet. It may only be a matter of years before some ingenious computer scientist completely redefines what we’re capable of.
Though the number of transistors we can put onto a dense integrated circuit may be beginning to reach a plateau, that doesn’t mean the impressive technological progress of the human race is coming to an end. It only means we’ll need to find new ways to make and measure our progress. And with the captive attention and fierce demand of modern consumers, scientists and engineers will be motivated to find them.