Moore’s Law — Does It Only Apply to Transistors?
It’s quite possible that the same principle will one day apply to qubits
It seems like every day there are a slew of new gadgets and technologies hitting the market. By the time you finally get the one you want, there’s a good chance that it’ll be obsolete before too long. That’s because our technological capabilities as a species continues to grow — rapidly. This rapid growth is called Moore’s law.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the exact definition of Moore’s Law goes like this,
The statement that the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles every two years.
It doesn’t sound too fancy or exciting at first glance but what this translates into is raw computational capacity which drives most of the connected world in one sense or another. Also take note of the current rate of growth, 24 months. As this capacity grows, it will eventually increase the speed at which it grows which is where things get interesting. Theoretically, we could eventually arrive at a time where the computational capacity of our world doubles every second (AI takeover?).
In reality however, this isn’t likely. Especially in the case of transistors. Eventually we will hit a physical limit that stops us from making transistors any smaller than they already are and at that point we either make larger chips to accommodate more transistors or we maximize chip architecture and utilization. You can read about the physical limits here.
Still with me? Good.
With this information in mind lets take a look at the current state of things and try to answer our question, does Moore’s Law apply only to transistors?
Meet the qubit
In case you want to skip the technical description of exactly what a qubit is, I can give you the quick and easy version.
There’s this phenomenon, in quantum mechanics, called superposition. Essentially, this is where a particle can exist in two different states simultaneously. Imagine an electron. Let’s say that it is either spinning upwards, or it is spinning downwards. Easy enough right?
Now, let’s say it is in a state of superposition. This means that it is spinning in both directions at the same time. In classical binary computing systems we are limited to 1’s and 0’s which effectively translate into ‘on’ or ‘off’ but with qubits, we can compute algorithms in states that are both on and off.
And by computing algorithms in both states I’m not just telling you it’s a few times faster than a normal PC, it’s insanely fast.
Remember when IBM’s computer Deep Blue defeated chess champion, Garry Kasparov in 1997? It was able to gain a competitive advantage because it examined 200 million possible moves each second. A quantum machine would be able to calculate 1 trillion moves per second!
The spinning electron I mentioned? Put a few of those in an electro magnetically suspended state within a super cooled container of sorts and you have yourself a qubit.
There is actually a LOT more that goes into it but that’s the nuts and bolts of it anyways.
Moore’s Law AND qubits
I don’t want to insinuate anything too outlandish here but let’s conduct a quick thought experiment. We will start with the assumption that in the future we can expect to see mass centralized computational processing. This really isn’t that unlikely of a scenario nor is it that different than the idea of many cloud technologies. It’s just applied to a much larger scale in this discussion.
Let’s also assume that these centralized computational processing centers are in fact powered by quantum computers which compute via qubits. Where does Moore’s Law stand in this situation? Would we not arrive at a point in which the same principles of increasing the amount of transistors on a piece of silicon also apply to increasing the number of qubits in a quantum computer?
Then it must also follow that under these assumptions the quantum processing itself would undoubtedly be used to find ways of increasing quantum computational capacity at a wickedly fast rate.
I think the likely result would be that we end up with an overwhelming amount of processing power that we would probably never use anywhere near 100% of. Maybe at that point we would pursue trying to compact quantum technology, as we have with many other forms of tech, down to pocket size.
Moore’s Law will have simply been repurposed into something that eventually reaches an equilibrium where we no longer require any additional processing power. For a long time anyways.
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