082 Three phases of ideas & Moore’s law

Science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once wrote a summed-up proposition about the 3 phases “every revolutionary idea” passes through (before it becomes what it is destined to become; revolutionary). The three stages every new revolutionary idea passes through according to the great Sci-Fi writer are:

  1. It’s completely impossible.
  2. It’s possible, but it’s not worth doing.
  3. I said it was a good idea all along.

This kind of funny thinking has taken place quite a lot of times in history, in the far, and the relatively nearer times. People deem some act to be impossible (which isn’t really impossible ever but is just improbable, at that time) and then as time passes, we get our facts right and discover that the idea is possible but isn’t worth wasting so much money and time and human energy on. And then, as our human race and technology further advance, and we break that barrier of impossibility, turning the act into reality, everyone proudly says, “I knew it could be done all along!”

Well, let’s just call that human nature and move on.

Now, Moore’s Law (a principle rule made from observation by Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel) proposes that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit (IC) microchip doubles every two years or grows exponentially, while the landed cost reduces in tandem. Simply put, the overall processing speed of a computer will double every two years, quadruple every 4 years, 6 times every six years and so on while the cost of doing so will keep falling down.

refer to caption
Transistor counts in an IC / data: Wikipedia, Max Roser

The above data chart shows the number of transistors, in a computer’s microchip. It’s more or less doubled every two years as in principle.

But, not surprisingly enough, people started to use the basic principle of Moore’s law in parts of technology other than just transistors in an integrated circuit.

Some now believe that technology in any field will grow exponentially as well, and the costs of making such a reality will keep plummeting.

The significance or really any relevance of these two principles by Arthur C. Clarke and Gordon Moore can be overlooked and discarded. But there is a relationship between them. The thought by Arthur C. Clarke precedes the principle made by Moore. No idea is too foolish and no idea is unobtainable. Here’s a tweet with a list of things that didn’t exist 15 years ago. To name a few, Instagram, the iPhone, Zoom and Netflix didn’t exist 15 years ago. And possibly people 30 years in the past (so many who are still alive today!) didn’t even imagine that these things were gonna take up so much of their lives and technology and the world as a whole was going to improve by such a drastic amount.

Just once an “impossible” idea is turned into reality, the chain is further broken apart by other individuals and organizations and then improved upon constantly, often exponentially.

*Note: this article was “supposed to” be published on September 30, 2021 but the author (that’s me) forgot to hit the “Publish” button and instead put the whole article into the drafts folder. So here we are on October 1, 2021 when the author realized his mistake.

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