Goodbye Moore, Hello Murphy

Written by Tim Haight

I'm VP of Technology Services for CGNET. I love to travel and do IT strategic planning.

January 7, 2014

By Tim Haight

Two articles caught our attention today. One summarized all the thinking that Moore’s Law no longer holds. The second discussed many public applications that are failing, and the unfortunate people who are affected.

Not to put too fine a point on it, Moore’s Law says that, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. Other things being equal, this leads to proportional increases in processing speed, memory capacity, graphics processing and other stuff.

Computer enthusiasts can go on forever about how much the raw increase in the number of transistors on a chip affects how humans can use computers, given all the other things involved, such as multi-threading, other microarchitecture techniques, and limiting factors such as CPU power dissipation. But, perhaps because of its simplicity and amazing performance over time, Moore’s Law has become symbolic of the fact that technology has kept getting way more powerful, and that this can be expected to continue.

And now, maybe, it won’t.

Is this such a big deal? Some argue that processing power will continue to increase exponentially because of newer technologies, such as quantum or biological processing. Others think that the writing has been on the wall for some time, since all exponential trends in the physical world ultimately must reach a limit.  Gordon Moore himself didn’t expect his law to last beyond 2015 to 2025.

The other article raises the question of what we’re doing with the processing power we already have. This has been a winter of processing discontent, with the Obamacare Website being the poster child. But today’s second article points out that where services to the unfortunate are concerned, failures have become widespread.

As the New York Times article put it, “While the nation’s attention was focused on the troubled rollout of the federal health care site under the Affordable Care Act, the problems with the unemployment sites have pointed to something much broader: how a lack of funding in many states and a shortage of information technology specialists in public service jobs routinely lead to higher costs, botched systems and infuriating technical problems that fall hardest on the poor, the jobless and the neediest.”

Has Murphy taken a job in public-sector IT, which is looking increasingly as if whatever can go wrong, will?

Perhaps we need a synthesis of Moore and Murphy, a new law that goes something like, “For every exponential increase in processing power, there will be proportional increase in humans’ ability to use it badly.” Sounds intriguing. I wonder what Edward Snowden would think of it?

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