Re: limits to exponential growth (RE: Other signposts towardsthe Singularity)

From: James Higgins (
Date: Mon Jul 23 2001 - 15:24:10 MDT

Out of concern that my silence would be construed as agreement I make this

My opinion is that Moore's Law has a specific definition having to do with
transistor counts in Integrated Circuits. There may be many similar
effects in other fields, but they are not Moore's Law. The problem with
the Newton comparison is that there is a "constant amount" that remains the
same regardless of using apples, bowling balls or buildings. There is no
constant amount between transistor counts, actual CPU performance,
productivity of clerks, or others. There certainly are similar values, but
no constant.

Anyway, I've said my piece and thus this will be my last post on this topic.

James Higgins

At 04:44 PM 7/23/2001 -0400, you wrote:
>James Higgins wrote:
> >
> > At 03:24 PM 7/23/2001 -0400, you wrote:
> > >Supposing that Moore's Law suddenly breaks down in 2005 and transistors
> > >abruptly stop shrinking, I'm still not nervous, because I know that
> > >computers will suddenly start having more and more symmetric
> > >multiprocessing CPUs, rather than bigger and bigger CPUs, and everyone
> > >will talk about how it was "obvious" that Moore's Law would someday switch
> > >over to parallel power per dollar instead of serial speed per dollar. Or
> > >we could see serial speed continuing to increase at the current rate even
> > >as the number of CPUs also begin to double every couple of years, which
> > >would also break down Moore's Law, albeit from the opposite direction. Or
> > >FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays) might become common and break down
> > >our yardsticks.
> >
> > Moore's Law has nothing to do with CPUs! If transistor counts stop
> > increasing but systems start shipping with multiprocessing CPUs (not in the
> > same chip) Moore's Law is broken. Likewise, if transistor counts continue
> > to increase as predicted but systems also ship with multiple CPUs there is
> > no effect on Moore's Law.
>Yes, I know. That was exactly my point - that Moore's Law might break
>down completely, and yet computers would go on smoothly increasing in
>cost/performance with scarely a blip. If this happened, everyone would
>immediately begin speaking of Moore's Law as if it strictly controlled
>cost/performance and had never had anything to do with transistor sizes.
>If transistor counts kept increasing but systems also started shipping
>with multiple CPUs, Moore's Law might technically remain intact but would,
>from the perspective of a computer buyer, suddenly appear not as a steady
>acceleration but as a speed limit that had been broken (!).
>Moore's Law is now really a social observation rather than a technical
>one, and is used that way almost universally; it generalizes so readily to
>so many observed phenomena in the computing industry that one speaks of
>"Moore's Law for performance per dollar" or "Moore's Law for disk
>drives". As I don't work for Intel, I have now accepted this and have no
>trouble with, e.g., Ray Kurzweil's graph showing the operation of "Moore's
>Law since 1900" for clerks, mechanical calculators, vacuum tubes, and
>Moore only *thought* his Law was about transistors. Imagine if Isaac
>Newton had first observed that apples fall at a constant acceleration, and
>formulated Newton's Law as "The velocity of a freely falling apple changes
>by a constant amount in a given unit of time." Would we still be speaking
>of Newton's Law as if it applied only to apples?
>-- -- -- -- --
>Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
>Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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