Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times has an article this morning reviewing Silicon Valley’s infatuation with whether or not the chip- making industry is facing the end of fifty years of Moore’s Law. Named after Intel co-founder Gordon Moore who first observed that the number of components that could be etched onto the surface of a silicon wafer was doubling at regular intervals (every two years or so) and would do so for the foreseeable future. It is hard to overstate the importance of Moore’s Law to the tech world. The premise behind Moore’s Law — that computer chips would do more and cost less — helped Silicon Valley bring startling advances to the world, from the personal computer to smartphones. As reported by the New York Times:
“Signaling their belief that the best way to forecast the future of computing needs to be changed, the Semiconductor Industry Associations of the United States, Europe, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan will make one final report based on a chip technology forecasting system called the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors.
Nearly every big chip maker, including Intel, IBM and Samsung, belongs to the organization, though Intel says it is not participating in the last report.
To replace what the semiconductor industry has done for nearly 25 years, a professional organization called the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers announced on Wednesday that it will a create a new forecasting system, called the International Roadmap for Devices and Systems, that is intended to track a wider range of computer technologies.
One technology could be so-called quantum computing, a cutting-edge reimagining of how computers work that taps quantum physics — a branch of physics that explains how matter and energy interact. Another could be graphene, a form of carbon and an alternative to silicon that could produce smaller and faster transistors that use less power.
“The end of Moore’s Law is what led to this,” said Thomas M. Conte, a Georgia Institute of Technology computer scientist and co-chairman of the effort to draw up a new set of benchmarks to replace the semiconductor reports. “Just relying on the semiconductor industry is no longer enough. We have to shift and punch through some walls and break through some barriers.”
Predicting the end of Moore’s Law has for years been a parlor game in Silicon Valley, and not everyone in the industry believes that what it has come to represent is nearly over. Intel, the world’s largest chip maker, is a notable contrarian and predicts it has the means and know-how to push further into the atomic level.”
It remains to be seen whether we have come to the end of the atomic level of chip production. The future, exactly when is too difficult to say, will definitely rely on subatomic or quantum-level computing.