Extrapolating the Future

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By Dayrius Tay

Throughout history, there has always been a market in predicting imminent events, from mystics and shamans in the primitive world to sophisticated algorithms that monitor the stock market. Even though predictive power is thought to be correlated to complexity, not all insightful predictions are characterized by its convolution.

The most well-known extrapolation might be Moore’s Law, which is an observation by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that transistor density (measure of processor complexity) doubles every two years. This ‘law’ has held true for the past century, spanning various computational substrates. This prediction has inspired a litany of similar technology related observations.

Below is a list of extrapolations in various industries. Although these are called ‘laws’, the use of this word is a misnomer, as these are projections and not an inviolable natural law. On occasion, these projections have a set limit where it no longer holds due to fundamental limitations.

Currently, transistor density is gradually deviating from Moore’s law due to quantum mechanical effects. With that said, most of these predictions have no known termination point. The hypothesized rationale behind these estimations is a positive feedback loop where improvements in technology lifts the industry’s value, leading to more R&D funding and hence boosting the rate of technological breakthroughs. This tends to create exponential growth/decay, which can be extrapolated.

The consequence of such a trend is a ‘technological singularity’ where hyper-intelligent machines trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization. Being an armchair futurologist has never been easier.

List of projections (not comprehensive)
Carlson curve- Rate of DNA sequencing
Haitz’s law- LED cost falls by factor of ten per decade and amount of light generated increases by factor of 20 per decade
Eroom’s law- Spelled as Moore’s law but backwards. Cost of drug development doubles every nine years
Koomey’s law- Efficiency of computers (computations per joule) double every 1.57 years. Estimated termination point: 2048 at current rates of progress due to second law of thermodynamics
Swanson’s law- Price of solar panels halve every ten years
Keck’s law- Data rate in optical fibre
Screen pixel count- Exponential increase


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