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It Is Not About Moore’s Law

Kevin Morris wrote an interesting piece in Electronic Engineering Journal (http://www.eejournal.com/archives/articles/20140812-nextmoore/) that he in my opinion wrongly titled “The Next Moore’s Law”.  I say this because Moore’s Law stems from an observation of an existing technology.  It predicts both technical and economic activity but by itself does not contribute directly to the predicted outcome.  Kevin himself states in the article that the breakthrough idea was to “print” components on a silicon substrate.

What Mr. Morris advocates in his article, instead, is a technical breakthrough that would be similar to printing components.

He offers a few examples: travel near the speed of light, wide availability of 3D printing, machine generated software.  Kevin maintains that any such fundamental paradigm shift would force drastic changes worldwide.  In particular he lingers on the fact that value is controlled by the law of supply and demand.  What if everyone could create goods with a 3D printer?  There would be no reason to buy the good thus no reason for the law to continue to guide the economic system.

True enough on the surface.  But the law of supply and demand does not have to be invalidated.  The goods required to print a particular object could have a cost that makes the decision of buying versus producing interesting.  If, for example it would cost $175 to print a flat screen terminal and $195.99 to purchase one, would one really choose the print path?  And not everyone would have a 3D printer or the knowledge to operate one successfully.  Kevin is a bit bias by the Silicon Valley location, where most people have accessibility and knowledge well above the rest of the world.

On the other hand I can see the birth of a new category of services: 3D print shops.  And these certainly would operate under the law of supply and demand.

Yes it is true that every fundamental breakthrough, like the Internet, has changed the social and economic behavior of a significant portion of the world population, but it has not invalidated capitalism and it has complicated, not diminished, security and legal entanglements.

Any fundamental breakthrough as the ones described by Kevin would not occur overnight.  Thus society would have time to absorb and adapt.  A more interesting comparison would be semiconductor technology and bitcoins.  The idea of replacing the monetary system with a virtual computer based one seemed on the surface brilliant.  But in practice it turns out the idea has not been fully thought trough and the result is that more legal and financial problems have been created than solved.

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