July 2009

Moore's law and its analogues

Kevin Kelly has a great new essay up, "Was Moore's Law Inevitable?", examining a series of examples of exponential growth in technological capability from a wide range of fields - and makes the very interesting point that all these examples are "prisoner[s] of physics, the periodic table, manufacturing technology and economics" - but some of them proceed rapidly and some do not. The interesting question is why?

Transitions in information technology

I recently finished reading Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris (i.e. the Hunchback of Notre Dame). Among his many long asides and discussions setting the tone for the time (it is set in Paris of the late 1400's, well over 300 years before he wrote) I particularly noticed his remarks on the remarkable transition just beginning at the time. As he put it: "The invention of printing is the greatest event in history." The copy of his book that I read was, however, not printed on paper, but electronically downloaded from Project Gutenberg - donated to the world through a scan of the public domain 1880 version translated by Isabel F. Hapgood. If the invention of printing was clearly the greatest historical event by the 1830's when Hugo first wrote those words, the 20th century revolution in information technologies is at least the start of something far greater.