Guest Post: Have Advances In Consumer Electronics Reached Diminishing Returns?
Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,
Consumer and commercial electronic devices in 2053 are likely to look and perform almost exactly like they do today.
Silicon daddy: Moore's Law about to be repealed, but don't blame physics is a significant article. The principal expert quoted, Robert Colwell, is one of the true Kelly Johnsons of the golden age of semiconductors. I date this Golden Age period from 1975 to 2015. And like Kelly Johnson (Lockheed's P-38 to SR-71 wunderkind), Colwell was active over an entire 40-year Golden Age. He was already at Bell Labs in 1980 and he's still at DARPA today.
I think this semiconductor - aerospace analogy is very strong. Look at what happened from 1930 to 1970 in aerospace engineering and manufacturing. We went from fabric covered crates flown by barnstorming Great Waldo Peppers to XB-70 Mach 3 bombers (production cancelled) and Boeing 747s. By 1970 a series of real physical limits were reached in an array of basic aerospace technologies, all nearly simultaneously. Come 1971 the US Congress deleted funding for the US supersonic transport (SST). The British-French Concorde and the Soviet Tu-144 went ahead. Both were commercial failures and developmental dead ends.
The result is that 44 years later Boeing is still building 747s (and 737s). Boeing undoubtedly now has numerous retirees whose entire careers were spent in the 737 or 747 programs. This is an outcome very few people would have predicted in 1968 when these two programs were beginning.
It's ironic that Alvin Toffler published Future Shock the same year that phenomenon generally stopped in aerospace. Subsequent margin tweaking in commercial aerospace engineering has focused on three functional areas: safety, manufacturing cost and operational cost. On the other hand, continued attempts to increase military aircraft performance helped lead to the runaway program costs we're still witnessing (for example, the $1 trillion F-35 Lightning program).
This will be replicated in military electronics once the limit of Moore's Law is reached. Further increases in capability will start costing more, not less. This will lead to reduced total production runs and further cost increases from loss of scale.
The above suggests that consumer and commercial electronic devices in 2053 are likely to look and perform almost exactly like they do today.Subsequent improvements will be aimed at reducing costs, not enhancing raw performance.
It doesn't mean the world will stay in stasis. Look at the changes the ever rising population of 747s and 737s helped usher in between 1970 - 2013.
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