Moore’s law will hit an economic wall sometime in early 2020s

Moore’s Law — the ability to pack twice as many transistors on the same sliver of silicon every two years — will come to an end as soon as 2020 at the 7nm node says Robert Colwell who now works for DARPA (trying to pick after CMOS technology) and was Intel’s chief chip architect from 1990 to 2001.

“For planning horizons, I pick 2020 as the earliest date we could call it dead,” said Robert Colwell, who seeks follow-on technologies as director of the microsystems group at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. “You could talk me into 2022, but whether it will come at 7 or 5nm, it’s a big deal.”

Moore’s Law was a rare exponential growth factor that over 30 years brought speed boosts from 1 MHz to 5 GHz, a 3,500-fold increase. By contrast, the best advances in clever architectures delivered about 50x increases over the same period, he said. Exponentials always come to an end by the very nature of their unsustainably heady growth. Unfortunately, such rides are rare, Colwell said.

“I don’t expect to see another 3,500x increase in electronics — maybe 50x in the next 30 years,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a technology development like this one,” he said. “Ray Kurzweil … goes down a different path. He says, ‘No, no, no, no; Moore’s Law is just one of a set of exponentials over history. It’s just the latest one. Don’t worry about it.’ I say baloney. I don’t agree with him at all.”

Colwell postulated a future chip designer who accepted the fact that Moore’s Law had run its course, but who used a variety of clever architectural innovations to push the envelope. If that designer’s chip could provide a 50 per cent improvement in performance or power consumption, Colwell says, it would likely find a market. “But how about 20 per cent? How about 10 per cent? How far down are you willing to go and still think that you’ve got something you can sell?”

Colwell poured cold water on blind faith that engineers will find another exponential growth curve to replace Moore’s Law. “We will make a bunch of incremental tweaks, but you can’t fix the loss of an exponential,” he said.

DARPA tracks a list of as many as 30 possible alternatives to the CMOS technology that has been the workhorse of Moore’s Law. “My personal take is there are two or three promising ones and they are not very promising,” he said.

Colwell ticked off a list of other routes to improving chips post-CMOS, including 3D stacking, new architectures and apps, new switching technologies, better human interfaces, and just plain creative marketing. “You laugh, but you will see this,” he said, citing Intel’s dolls of fab workers.

Colwell called out a few specifics, such as work building devices at the level of a hundred to a thousand atoms. In addition, “there’s a lot of work in brain-machine interfacing — people who figure out better interfaces will win,” he said.

As the end approaches, “when Moore’s Law stops it will be economics that stops it, not physics, so keep your eye on the money,” he said.

SOURCE – EEtimes, UK Register

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