The Future of Technology Is Uncertain as Moore's Law Comes to an End

The future of computers may be complicated. GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP/Getty Images

In 1965, Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, came up with a theory of technology progression that held true for more than 50 years. Coined "Moore's law," the theory suggested that the speed of computer processors would double every two years. The transistors inside of computer chips would continue to decline in cost and size but increase in power. Those predictions held true for decades, but a new study suggests that Moore's law may have finally run out.

The study, published in Nature Electronics, suggests that technology can no longer get any smaller and innovators will have to figure out a new way to make it better. What this new way is, no one yet knows. As outlined in the new study, the future of microprocessors, the tiny computer chips that help run our lives, is complicated.

"The underlying science for this technology is as of yet unknown, and will require significant research funds—an order of magnitude more than is being invested today," said Hassan Khan, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University who specializes in engineering and public policy, Tech Explore reported.

Computer chips are complex devices made up of layers of transistors. The more transistors a computer has, the faster it can make complex calculations. This is why making them smaller and fitting more into a single chip is so important for technology advancements.

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Moore's law predicted that technology would continue to shrink at a rate that meant every year, twice as many transistors would be able to fit into a single computer chip, Technology Review reported. In 1975, this prediction was adjusted slightly to doubling happening once every two years.

"Half of economic growth in the U.S. and worldwide has also been attributed to this trend and the innovations it enabled throughout the economy," said Erica Fuchs, study researcher and professor of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, Tech Explore reported.

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But the law is changing. Making transistors smaller is becoming increasingly more expensive. And as Technology Review previously reported, computers and mobile devices may not be able to keep pace with new software if transistors cannot be made any smaller.

The study also points out a clear way to address this not-so-future problem: money and leadership. Once these two minor details are sorted out, the creativity should start to flow.