Moore’s Law: Alive? Dead? Or resurrected?

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Moore’s Law: Alive? Dead? Or resurrected?

The indispensable foundation underpinning the Fifth Techno-Economic Revolution is Moore’s Law, the relentless cost-performance improvement in electronics enabled by the ever-increasing density of transistors in integrated circuits.

This amazing economic phenomenon has been going on for at least 60 years. It was first widely-recognized back in 1965, when Intel’s Gordon Moore observed that “the number of transistors per square millimeter was doubling approximately every two years.” For over 5 decades that has translated into lower costs, higher performance and more reliable computing and networking.     

In 2018, some experts argue that Moore’s law is dead. Other say it’s alive and well. And others claim it has been resurrected in a new form. Who’s right?

Consider the facts.

We last examined Moore’s Law, in 2013, as we were writing Ride the Wave. Now, five years later, we’re looking back at what actually transpired and attempting to understand its likely forward trajectory.

In an era when digital computing drives nearly everything we do, from plowing and watering fields of corn to diagnosing early-stage cancer deep inside the brain, no issue is more important for our economic future. Today, the ever-falling cost of ever-increasing computing power lets us embed connected “machine intelligence” into nearly everything, everywhere. So, the sudden end of this phenomenon would irrevocably change the trajectory of human progress.

Fortunately, if the leaders at Intel are right, that won’t happen anytime soon. They say, “We have good insight into how we will solve the problems [with Moore’s Law] during the next five years.” They also do a lot of path-finding for the five years beyond that point. The bottom line: as of today, “Moore’s Law is alive and well, for Intel.”

So, why do a lots of other experts challenge Intel’s claim, insisting that Moore’s Law is sick, if not totally dead. The answer lies in definitions.

Consider the literal wording of Moore’s 1965 observation, “the number of transistors per square millimeter doubles approximately every two years.” Much of the ability to pack more transistors onto a millimeter of silicon involves making individual feature on the chip smaller; for instance, going from 65 nm features to 45 nm features permitted engineers to pack roughly twice as many transistors onto a single millimeter of silicon...

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