Moore’s Law is not about transistors it’s about the mechanics of human belief

I finished my undergraduate bachelors in Computer Science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2007. Moore’s Law was drilled into our eager brains from the first day of class. It’s the kind of easy concept that is so simple no one bothers digging for deeper meaning. Let’s do it!

Here’s how Wikipedia explains it:

“Moore’s law is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. The observation is named after Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel, whose 1965 paper described a doubling every year in the number of components per integrated circuit, and projected this rate of growth would continue for at least another decade. In 1975, looking forward to the next decade, he revised the forecast to doubling every two years. The period is often quoted as 18 months because of Intel executive David House, who predicted that chip performance would double every 18 months (being a combination of the effect of more transistors and the transistors being faster).” – Wikipedia

Imagine how surprised I was reading Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants when he quotes Moore:

Moore says, “Moore’s law is really about economics.”

What does that mean? Sounds like Moore’s Law is a prophecy about the strength of the infrastructure surrounding the manufacturing of transistors.

Kelly goes on to say,

Carver Mead made it clearer yet: Moore’s law, he says, “is really about people’s belief system, it’s not a law of physics, it’s about human belief, and when people believe in something, they’ll put energy behind it to make it come to pass.”

Mead defines Moore’s Law further:

“After [it] happened long enough, people begin to talk about it in retrospect, and in retrospect it’s really a curve that goes through some points and so it looks like a physical law and people talk about it that way. But actually if you’re living it, which I am, then it doesn’t feel like a physical law. It’s really a thing about human activity, it’s about vision, it’s about what you’re allowed to believe.”

What concepts do you leave on the table? What beliefs have you actually tested? Hindsight’s 20/20. What predictions can you make to alter (and guide) the beliefs of your customers?


Author: David Neely

Professional Software Developer. Technology and Web Coordinator at the University of Hawaii's Manoa Career Center.