Keeping up with Moore's Law

I gave a talk to a group of robotics folks on Monday night, and one of the concerns that came up in the Q&A session afterwards was that Moore's Law will somehow "run out of steam." Two of the problems that people brought up included, a) the ever-shrinking size of transistors cannot continue forever, and b) increasing power consumption cannot continue forever. One point made is that current supercomputers (the kind with 10,000 Pentium chips running in parallel) can consume 10 to 20 megawatts of power. Certainly a robot cannot consume 20 megawatts.

I understand both points, but I think they are both irrelevant. First, we KNOW it is possible to produce a high-performance, low power CPU. Each one of us has a brain that performs something on the order of one quadrillion operations per second, yet it consumes only 20 watts.

Second, Scientists and engineers make discoveries all the time, and things simply get faster and faster. 20 years ago a Cray computer ran so hot that the entire computer (as big as a refrigerator) was immersed in liquid FC-77 to extract the prodigious amounts of heat it created. Today you can get that same power in a little desktop computer cooled with a small fan. That's normal progress, and there's nothing going to stop that sort of progress.

Here are two articles that show current trends in making computers faster and more efficient:

Sun chips away at wireless chip connections

From the article:Also:If you take out the cache -- representing millions of transistors -- you can use those transistors for something else. See this page for some thoughts.

This article talks about a whole new paradigm for computing:

Nanotech leads way to quantum computing

From the article:One point I made in my talk and in my article discussed how quickly airplanes advanced between 1903 and 1954:That is the kind of progress we will continue to see in computing power over the next 50 years. We will see progress in transitor size and power consumption, packaging, etc. We will also see completely new paradigms arise. What these developments mean is a dramatic increase in robotic intelligence over the next several decades, along with dramatic changes in the world economy.

See also:

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