April 18, 2015

MICHAEL S. MALONE: The Promise at Technology’s Powerful Heart: As Moore’s Law turns 50, the revolution in computing it foretold is on the cusp of even more-radical progress.

Moore’s Law is creative destruction on steroids. It regularly fosters the next wave of entrepreneurial opportunities made possible by the latest jump in chip performance. It can be blamed for much of the 90% mortality rate of electronics startups.

But because the usual graphic presentation of the law is tamed by the format into a nice shallow line, we don’t get to see the awesome power of the raw curve—which, like all exponential lines stays shallow seemingly for a long time, then suddenly curves almost straight upward in a vertiginous climb. It is the curve of a rocket’s acceleration, of a pandemic, of the cells born from a fertilized egg.

The great turning took place a decade ago, while we were all distracted by social networking, smartphones and the emerging banking crisis. Its breathtaking climb since tells us that everything of the previous 40 years—that is, the multi-trillion-dollar revolution in semiconductors, computers, communications and the Internet—was likely nothing but a prelude, a warm-up, for what is to come. It will be upon this wall that millennials will climb their careers against almost-unimaginably quick, complex and ever-changing competition.

Crowd-sharing, crowdfunding, bitcoin, micro-venture funding, cloud computing, Big Data—all have been early attempts, of varying success, to cope with the next phase of Moore’s Law. Expect many more to come. Meanwhile, as always, this new pace will become the metronome of the larger culture.

Moore’s Law has always induced de-massification: giant mainframe computers become smartwatches, giant vertically-integrated organizations are defeated by what Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds has dubbed an “Army of Davids.”

Rigid command-and-control structures in every walk of life, from corporations to governments to education, become vulnerable to competition by adaptive and short-lived alliances and confederacies. Now that process is going to attack every corner of society.

Be ready.

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