Have Advances in Consumer Electronics Reached Diminishing Returns? (September 4, 2013)
Consumer and commercial electronic devices in 2053 are likely to look and perform almost exactly like they do today.
Correspondent Mark G. recently proposed an interesting analogy between the technological product cycle of commercial aircraft and consumer electronics. Aerospace technology experienced a Golden Age of rapid technological development that leveled off once fundamental technologies had matured. Investment in further advances reached a point of diminishing return: the cost of squeezing out modest gains exceeded the profit potential of the advances.
Here is Mark's commentary.
Silicon daddy: Moore's Law about to be repealed, but don't blame physics is a significant article.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.
Thank you, Mark, for a provocative analysis of exponential trends. As Robert Cowell noted in the above article, "Let's at least face the fact that Moore's Law is an exponential, and there cannot be an exponential that doesn't end," he said. "You can't have it."
It's not just processor speeds that reflect exponential trends; cost declines in electronics (think digital memory) tend to follow near-exponential rates, too. Once the fundamental technology matures, those price declines flatten out.
As Mark noted at the end of his commentary, the economic and social changes from mature technologies arise from ubiquity rather than additional capabilities. The revolution in commercial aerospace was not technological improvements in speed (such as the SST), it was the price reduction in the cost to passengers and the ubiquity of commercial aircraft and routes.
We can expect the same trajectory of change in consumer electronics: it will be
ubiquity that creates change, rather than technological leaps in capabilities.
Things are falling apart--that is obvious. But why are they falling apart? The reasons are complex and global. Our economy and society have structural problems that cannot be solved by adding debt to debt. We are becoming poorer, not just from financial over-reach, but from fundamental forces that are not easy to identify or understand. We will cover the five core reasons why things are falling apart:
1. Debt and financialization
2. Crony capitalism and the elimination of accountability
3. Diminishing returns
5. Technological, financial and demographic changes in our economy
Complex systems weakened by diminishing returns collapse under their own weight and are replaced by systems that are simpler, faster and affordable. If we cling to the old ways, our system will disintegrate. If we want sustainable prosperity rather than collapse, we must embrace a new model that is Decentralized, Adaptive, Transparent and Accountable (DATA).
We are not powerless. Not accepting responsibility and being powerless are two sides of
the same coin: once we accept responsibility, we become powerful.
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