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Moore’s Law Holds for More Than Computers

A new study has put Moore’s law to the test and found it to be a much more powerfully predictive tool than originally thought, applicable to a wide range of technologies. (Moore’s law observes that roughly every two years, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles.) Nature reports:

[Researchers] compared several mathematical laws that purport to describe how the costs of technologies evolve, and found that the most accurate was one proposed as early as 1936.

That proposal was made by aeronautical engineer Theodore Wright, who pointed out that the cost of aeroplanes fell as the number of planes manufactured rose…. This theory…is often explained on the basis that, the more we make, the better and more efficient we get at making.

“These hypotheses haven’t really been tested against data before,” says MIT’s Jessika Trancik. She and her collaborators collected data for 62 technologies, ranging from chemicals production to energy devices (such as photovoltaic cells) and information technologies, spanning periods of between 10 and 39 years.

That Moore’s law applies at all to so many different industries is a surprise, since computing has often been regarded as a special case. “It’s a much more general thing,” says author Doyne Farmer, currently at the University of Oxford, UK.

Exponential growth across more industries than just computing power is good news, but it also highlights the need for nimble, creative thinkers in our increasingly service-based economy. The technologies many of these services will be based on will constantly be turning over, and the ability to adapt to change will become one of the more sought-after skills for employers.

There’s a lot to be excited about in the years to come. Hold on to your hats.

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