Moore’s Law Part 4: Moore's Law in other domains

November 15, 2013

This is the last entry of a series focused on Moore’s Law and its implications moving forward, edited from a White paper on Moore’s Law, written by Google University Relations Manager Michel Benard. This series quotes major sources about Moore’s Law and explores how they believe Moore’s Law will likely continue over the course of the next several years. We will also explore if there are fields other than digital electronics that either have an emerging Moore's Law situation, or promises for such a Law that would drive their future performance.


The quest for Moore’s Law and its potential impact in other disciplines is a journey the technology industry is starting, by crossing the Rubicon from the semiconductor industry to other less explored fields, but with the particular mindset created by Moore’s Law. Our goal is to explore if there are Moore’s Law opportunities emerging in other disciplines, as well as its potential impact. As such, we have interviewed several professors and researchers and asked them if they could see emerging ‘Moore’s Laws’ in their discipline. Listed below are some highlights of those discussions, ranging from CS+ to potentials in the Energy Sector:

Sensors and Data Acquisition
Ed Parsons, Google Geospatial Technologist
The More than Moore discussion can be extended to outside of the main chip, and go within the same board as the main chip or within the device that a user is carrying. Greater sensors capabilities (for the measurement of pressure, electromagnetic field and other local conditions) allow including them in smart phones, glasses, or other devices and perform local data acquisition. This trend is strong, and should allow future devices benefiting from Moore’s Law to receive enough data to perform more complex applications.

Metcalfe’s Law states that the value of a telecommunication network is proportional to the square of connected nodes of the system. This law can be used in parallel to Moore’s Law to evaluate the value of the Internet of Things. The network itself can be seen as composed by layers: at the user’s local level (to capture data related to the body of the user, or to immediately accessible objects), locally around the user (such as to get data within the same street as the user), and finally globally (to get data from the global internet). The extrapolation made earlier in this blog (several TB available in flash memory) will lead to the ability to construct, exchange and download/upload entire contexts for a given situation or a given application and use these contexts without intense network activity, or even with very little or no network activity.

Future of Moore’s Law and its impact on Physics
Sverre Jarp, CERN
CERN, and its experiments with the Large Electron-Positron Collider (LEP) and Large Hadron Collider (LHC) generate data on the order of a PetaByte per year; this data has to be filtered, processed and analyzed in order to find meaningful physics events leading to new discoveries. In this context Moore’s Law has been particularly helpful to allow computing power, storage and networking capabilities at CERN and at other High Energy Physics (HEP) centers to scale up regularly. Several generations of hardware and software have been exhausted during the journey from mainframes to today’s clusters.

CERN has a long tradition of collaboration with chip manufacturers, hardware and software vendors to understand and predict next trends in the computing evolution curve. Recent analysis indicates that Moore’s Law will likely continue over the next decade. The statement of ‘several TB of flash memory availability by 2025’ may even be a little conservative according to most recent analysis.

Big Data Visualizations
Katy Börner, Indiana University
Thanks to Moore’s Law, the amount of data available for any given phenomenon, whether sensed or simulated, has been growing by several orders of magnitude over the past decades. Intelligent sampling can be used to filter out the most relevant bits of information and is practiced in Physics, Astronomy, Medicine and other sciences. Subsequently, data needs to be analyzed and visualized to identify meaningful trends and phenomena, and to communicate them to others.

While most people learn in school how to read charts and maps, many never learn how to read a network layout—data literacy remains a challenge. The Information Visualization Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) at Indiana University teaches students from more than 100 countries how to read but also how to design meaningful network, topical, geospatial, and temporal visualizations. Using the tools introduced in this free course anyone can analyze, visualize, and navigate complex data sets to understand patterns and trends.

Candidate for Moore’s Law in Energy
Professor Francesco Stellacci, EPFL
It is currently hard to see a “Moore’s Law” applying to candidates in energy technology. Nuclear fusion could reserve some positive surprises, if several significant breakthroughs are found in the process of creating usable energy with this technique. For any other technology the technological growth will be slower. Best solar cells of today have a 30% efficiency, which could scale higher of course (obviously not much more than a factor of 3). Also cost could be driven down by an order of magnitude. Best estimates show, however, a combined performance improvement by a factor 30 over many years.

Further Discussion of Moore’s Law in Energy
Ross Koningstein, Google Director Emeritus
As of today there is no obvious Moore’s Law in the Energy sector which could decrease some major costs by 50% every 18 months. However material properties at nanoscale, and chemical processes such as catalysis are being investigated and could lead to promising results. Applications targeted are hydrocarbon creation at scale and improvement of oil refinery processes, where breakthrough in micro/nano property catalysts is pursued. Hydrocarbons are much more compatible at scale with the existing automotive/aviation and natural gas distribution systems. Here in California, Google Ventures has invested in Cool Planet Energy Systems, a company with neat technology that can convert biomass to gasoline/jet fuel/diesel with impressive efficiency.

One of the challenges is the ability to run many experiments at low cost per experiment, instead of only a few expensive experiments per year. Discoveries are likely to happen faster if more experiments are conducted. This leads to heavier investments, which are difficult to achieve within slim margin businesses. Therefore the nurturing processes for disruptive business are likely to come from new players, beside existing players which will decide to fund significant new investments.

Of course, these discussions could be opened for many other sectors. The opportunities for more discourse on the impact and future of Moore’s Law on CS and other disciplines are abundant, and can be continued with your comments on the Research at Google Google+ page. Please join, and share your thoughts.