This is a short article, for me. Don’t have time to dawdle today. Needed to put pen to paper quickly and bolt…
Moore’s Law and processing
I listen to Tom interview people on his show on Palisades Radio every day. My day starts with it! Well, first a pot of coffee to get the brain going – and the guests just dig into so many fascinating discussions. This morning, I got about 15 minutes into Lyn’s interview and I had to write something up quickly. I have a drop ceiling in the gym I have to finish today, so I’ll listen to the rest then. I relate to Lyn’s background in engineering, so can’t wait to hear the rest.
For now, Tom had asked her about batteries and Moore’s law. This is one of the most important topics of our lifetimes – and I had spoken with Tom about this exact topic in my discussion with him with energy before the show. My contention is IF (not a certainty) we can figure out advances in batteries in the near term, that it will be one of the most important inventions in history – up there with the printing press, nuclear fission, and the microprocessor.
Now – we obviously have Lithium Ion right now. Lyn’s contention is CORRECT – that Moore’s Law does not apply here. Moore himself contended this was as a result of processor capabilities getting smaller and smaller as the years went on. His theory, if you will, was that processor technology will double every 18 months. While this has mostly held true, there are limits to this that Michio Kaku had brought up in 2011 or so with how small these things can get. Meaning, at some point we can run up against the limits of Moore’s Law. Kaku then contended that IF this wall is hit, then there are problems with society about to crack – as we continued to have a form of disinflation or deflation due to the amount of productivity gains that this technology had. Suddenly, we would run up against limits and could not make gains in productivity.
Just 10 years later, and we are now running into chip shortages. I don’t want to get into that here, but the idea is that there are advancements in something called “quantum computing” which is a different means of doing this altogether with explosive implications to processing capabilities.
Moore’s Law as a matter of practical application
Having taken my first college class at the age of 11 in BASIC programming at the local community college (RACC), I have been involved with technology since 1985, when I did my first program in BASIC on the family computer my dad built as part of some trade school thing. So being 45 years old, and that being 36 years ago, you can say I’ve seen a lot of advancements in technology. Currently, I manage a team of 120 in telecommunications, networking, systems administration, server administration, desktop support, and cybersecurity as a contractor to a well known customer.
In my 36 years of technology, and having an IT undergrad in 1998 – I have now WORKED in the field since 1994 – or spanning 27 years. What you learn day one in IT is that there’s a lot of different fields and no one knows everything. In fact, I tell people that work for me, “unless you learn something new today, you aren’t doing your job well”. Meaning, that if someone is arrogant enough to think they know everything, they actually cannot comprehend the concept of what they do NOT know. This is quite humbling in my field.
But in reality, you learn a Moore’s law CONCEPT. Advancements in technology are a certainty. When I was working in a server room in 2006, I was taking a hydro company’s physical servers to virtual – and with this, you needed Moore’s law to understand the processing needs then, and perhaps 5 years from then. We had mechanical engineers and hydraulic engineers and their work was fascinating – and the demands of processing with the applications they used like SolidEdge and Unigraphics was amazing. But one thing any IT person out there knows about is this. Data storage also seems to double every 18 months. Everyone needs to keep their damn emails. Regulatory reasons, etc. I get it, but when you are also part of the purchasing process for servers and capacity, you then understand that you need to take your current usage, then double it for every 18 months you plan on using the system – or at least make it scalable up. Today, you can just add storage in the cloud per month for pennies on the gig, but if you rewind 15 years ago, you were purchasing storage arrays for your company based on anticipated data needs.
I bring this up because in technology, Moore’s Law has gone well beyond his initial predictions and crossed into a technology realm. Meaning, “technology will double every 18 months”. How do you measure technology? You can’t. The idea here is that a lot of times the processing capabilities are then what led to the breakthroughs in technology.
Remember those engineers I was telling you about? They would be running simulations for hydraulic engineering designs, and these simulations would then allow them to predict all kinds of things about the efficiencies of the turbines they were sending out to dams all over the country. These greater efficiencies then led to hydro dams able to generate more power in the same density. You get where I’m going with this….
While Lyn is correct – that batteries cannot use Moore’s Law due to the limitations of the Lithium Ion right now, where I would politely disagree is that many of these companies now have crazy super computers. As I was leaving that hydro company in 2007 to then work for a major electronics company with 125,000 people, they were spinning up a super computer there to increase their ability to run simulations. Think about how super computers are used today?
Where I’m getting with this is this processing power can then be used to advance technologies as a whole. Meaning, technology advancement thus is advanced WITH Moore’s law. IF we run into a theoretical limit with processing power soon, then perhaps our tech advancement stops.
But the quantum computing I was discussing above then takes us to some Star Trek shit. And with this, you could have a major, major advance in leaps and bounds with technology any year now. We are talking a lot here about materials design and advancements with simulations. Think about how much more accurate weather prediction would be? This then helps you with forecasting out much longer, and you can even determine how this might affect crop yields 9 months out – Hedge Funds would love this shit – my buddy works for one and I think he told me his specialty was the soy market. He’s a former meteorologist and uses his powers of math to be one of the top horse racing owners in the country. You don’t know how many hours we did fantasy football together, and my bet is someday he’s going to be a part owner of the Chargers lol.
Anyway, materials advancement is a real thing, and this article is telling you how the next gen of batteries is around the corner. You can see how energy density and power density have both increased substantially over 30 years. Remember, I was fixing old IBM laptops and Palm Pilots probably before you were born. We now have laptops that can run 6 hours – although a lot of that is due to energy conservation, the power we can store is far greater than 30 years ago.
Take a look at this article here which dives into a lot of the advancements coming soon. My contention is that IF they can pull this off, perhaps using a Manhattan Project-like environment, that we can see quantum computing assisting in materials selection for the next generation of batteries beyond Lithium Ion.
The batter concept is so intriguing to me. I think I’m going to write a massive article in the next month on the history of battery tech and where it’s going. I’m starting to see metrics on batteries with their capabilities and I want to dig in and chart these numbers over time. Perhaps battery tech doubles every 5 years instead of 18 months, I don’t know.
What I DO know, is that in practical terms, Moore’s Law applies t technology as a whole BECAUSE processing power is so much tied to advancement in technology. Will quantum computing take us further? I know the article I linked above states that the military seems to have a Lithium Ion battery that is about 1,000 times more powerful than the Powerwall I’m installing. It also mentions they have tech, today, that’s about 10x that of Lithium Ion.