Wherefore Moore's Law? Part 1: This is Your Forebrain On Silicon - Any Questions?


Growth in Processor Capability - Intel Xeon vs SPARC

I think Audio is finished. Finished? Well, that any further development is accepted to be 'Gilding the Lily' and most of us have moved on with our lives.

Let me get a little more specific, for a moment. Most humans have two ears. For humans in prime condition, those ears can hear 20Hz to 20 000Hz sounds. Through the wonders of digitization and audio CDs, that translates to a total bit rate of 1.4Mbps. Most humans' hearing is not in prime condition, and 1.4Mbps of digital bandwidth is overkill. Almost all of us know that CD quality audio is overkill and we've not paid much attention to attempts to \u201cimprove\u201d it (e.g. SACD, DVD-Audio).

Chances are, then, that you've not changed your Audio Hi-Fi setup in a while. And you can feel pretty confident that your CD collection is going to be compatible with new equipment for a good while yet. Reliability has risen, prices have dropped, things have stabilized. Audio is finished.

When will Computing be finished? When will I stop changing my Computing environment, and when will my content become a little more futureproof?

Audio is finished because technology has overtaken human capacity for hearing. Computing overall has a taller target. Let me look at some of the data rates involved as a yardstick, in Gbps:
 

Data Rate (Gbps) Human Function
360 000 000 human cerebral cortex synapses 150 000G x 1/(0.2ms/firing)
885 2 eyes at 120deg of arc = 1.152Gpixels x 32bpp colour x 24fps
0.00004 2 ears at 20kHz each
Data Rate (Gbps) Machine Function
1638 PlayStation3 Cell Processor Element Interconnect Bus
480 PC3-20000 DDR3 RAM
409 HyperTransport 3.1 System Bus
21.6 DisplayPort 1.2
10 Ethernet / iSCSI / FCoE datacentre
1 Ethernet Desktop
0.1 E100 WAN link / DOCSIS 3 Cable Modem
0.05 802.11G WiFi
0.025 ADSL2+
0.013 3.5G Cellular
0.0014 CD Audio

Citing:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_device_bandwidths
http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/facts.html
http://clarkvision.com/imagedetail/eye-resolution.html

So we've got some rough targets. Let's take a conservative view of Moore's Law progress, and presume that our data rates will double every two years.

We will be finished with Video when the future equivalent of DisplayPort reaches the order of 885Gbps, which would be 11 years from now. There'll be some implementation time after that (remember CD Audio was defined in 1985), so maybe call it 20 years for commoditization.

And your forebrain? Our custom-hardware entertainment consoles could mimic real life some time after the future equivalent of datacentre-grade Ethernet could fire all our synapses through our spinal column, so Computing will be finished about 50 years away.

So for our lifetimes, we can look forward to continued change in our Computing environments. Tune in next time for another installment on Moore's Law - "Cultural Change by Classical Electromagnetics."