Moore’s Law has exerted a strange pull on the modern psyche for the past dozen years or so. What was once simply a statistical prediction has become a mythological imperative with the apparent force of physical law. For years it was an exciting harbinger of progress, but recently it has taken on a darker tone, as all gods eventually do. Exuberance has become fretfulness: we must keep up with it (it is a law, after all) and yet how, and to what end? It becomes a burden… what must we sacrifice to appease this pitiless law? And if we fail, how will we be punished?
And now even Moore’s Meta-Law is in danger of becoming obsolete. Moore’s Law, as you cannot fail to know, says that the computing power of a single chip will double every 18 months. Moore’s Meta-Law states that usage of the phrase “Moore’s Law” in the world press will double every 12 months. After years of solid predictability, there now appear to be both long term and short term limitations to Moore’s Meta-Law. A Google search this evening reveals a surprisingly feeble 143,000 documents that refer to the fabled law.
In the immediate future, we can expect to see continuing heavy impact from events in the Middle East as they drain the available reservoir of journalistic ink: more politics means less Moore. Is this the future you deserve? Don’t you deserve Moore? Working on exactly this principle, several House Democrats eager to revitalize the tech sector have proposed a “More Moore’s Law Law” that would legally coerce journalists to include more mentions of Moore’s Law in their articles in order to bring us in line with the prescribed trend, perhaps thereby vaulting the economy out of recession.
In the long run though, even if we pull out of the current downturn, we can expect to hit the true physical limitations of Moore’s Meta-Law before the close of this decade. According to some projections, by late 2008, every word appearing in print will be “Moore”, “Law”, or words that sound like them. Beyond this horizon predictions are sketchy, but we should remember that in the past researchers have always managed to overcome obstacles that seemed all but insurmountable. Dr. Leonard Chen of Lucent’s Bell Labs observes that “we may yet work out a satisfactory semaphore system, not unlike Morse Code, in which the dashes and dots are replaced by the words Moore and Law.” Armed with this “Moore’s Code” we could, in theory, stay on track for another three years or so merely by increasing the total output of published matter in the world’s press. Beyond this it’s anybody’s guess. But ingenuity has always kept us on track in the past, and if sacrificing meaningful communication is the cost of progress, then Moore’s Law Law Moore’s Law Moore’s Moore’s Law!