Saturday, April 23, 2005

Moore's Law

40th anniversary of Moore's law. Where do you see or want to see technology go in the coming years?

That is a really hard question. I would have answered differently a year ago - before I read Ray Kurzweil's book "The Age of Spiritual Machines, when computers exceed human intelligence". Before that, I was thinking in terms of incremental advancement. Now I'm thinking in terms of explosive advancement.

I am the same age as Moore's law (one month older to be precise). When I look back to being a kid in the 60's and 70's (riding around in the back of a really big car with vinyl slippery seats so you slid from one side of the car to the other if you wanted on turns - without seatbelts) to what my kids have today - it is amazing. Almost nothing they use even existed back then. They have USB mini-ipods for music (I was happy to have a walkman finally at the age of 14 - it was the size of a paper back but it was music). I don't think they'll ever buy music in a store in their life. I remember spending Saturday afternoons in the "Play it Again" record store buying used LPs. I actually had an 8-Track recorder (i could make my own 8 tracks from albums, good thing too -- 8-Track was the only source of music in my best friends car, and he had a black TransAm, I had a yellow Chevy Vega -- there was no question what car we were taking). I remember when you could open a car hood and make sense of what was in there. My Toyota Prius has more computing power than my first computer (a Tandy 1000/EX bought in 1987 when I got a job as a programmer). Everything is getting all tied together - my phone "bonds" with my car as I get into it now. I remember car phones, right before cell phones took off due to their shrinking size. So many things have changed at such a rate in our lifetime as never before (not saying anything new or revolutionary there - just a fact).

I wish I could remember the title/author of the book I'm about to describe. I read lots of Science Fiction, so this would have been a book I picked up in an airport just to have something to read. The story started with some people finding an intact space craft embedded in the bottom of a dried out seabed. It was powered by water (hydrogen powered). It was ancient but there were mummified bodies in it, and pictures. They were us as it turns out. The thought was that an advanced civilization can only stay that way with critical mass (lots of people). These people were from such an advanced civilization - crashed here on this planet and the survivors were us. Without the critical mass, they "devolved", lost their technology -- not enough people around to keep it up. We had to build up the critical mass to get back to where we are today.

That made a lot of sense to me, I could believe that in some sense. Without the mass of people we have now, all working simultaneously on the same problems, the level of advancement would be very slow indeed. Throw a million times the people at it and the problem gets solved faster. The problem solving goes faster as well as the ability to communicate and share information grows. Remember when "hurry up, it's a long distance call" meant something? Today I don't care where in the world I am, I've got my phone and just use it. I get my text messages in Oslo Norway as easily as in Leesburg Virginia in the US. It struck me, sitting in a hotel lounge in Geneva, looking around, with my headphones on listening to streaming audio from XM Radio and instant messaging from someone at work (for me it was 6pm, for them it was noon) on a wireless network - it didn't really matter where in the world any of us is, we can instantly communicate - for free basically. That is what is allowing us to incrementally advance, all of this shared common knownledge.

Kurzweil's book however turns that upside down. His premise is that we won't incrementally advance - we'll suddenly evolve ourselves into something else. He doesn't believe in an advanced civilization coming down from above and interacting with us - his thought is the advanced civilization would be unable to recognize us and we them. The melding of mind and machine - the ultimate in virtual reality and no more death (as long as the DBA's we leave behind do proper backups of course and test them out!). It is a scary thought - forget cloning, someone just does a database restore elsewhere and hey, maybe there you are again.

If you have the time, I do recommend the Kurzweil book, it is pretty much a "shake you up" sort of read. I don't buy all of it, but the concepts do make sense and make you think about it differently.

But back to the topic (or not). I'm finding things to become so complex anymore that the next big thing needs to be things that just work most of the time. I think they got it right in my car. It just works. Getting the phone to bond with the car (I still like that euphemism, devices "bonding" with eachother) was the most complex thing I've to deal with. However, it was a little unsettling to get a recall notice for a software upgrade (it was for the navigation system, it's optimization routines for finding the best path needed a little help Sounds familiar doesn't it? :)

Tivo for example, they got it right. I resisted the urge for so long to have Tivo and we got it just recently. I don't know what we did without it before. I watch about 3 shows - Star Trek: Enterprise, 24, and ER (only because that is my wife's favorite show).
With the traveling I do - I almost always missed 24, Enterprise would be hit and miss and ER (well, if I missed that one, that was ok..) Now, they are just sitting there. Pause, fast forward (commercials, hate them) - way cool. And I didn't need an advanced degree in TV to do it. Even my mother in law who lives with us and has her own Tivo "got it".

We need more Tivo's I guess.


Blogger Alberto Dell'Era said....

I'd bet that you are going to introduce Oracle's "auto" features as an example of an answer to "We need more Tivo's", and Oracle10g as an example of how things are getting more and more complex, in the next blog ;)

Now, since it's Saturday and my lab coat is in the washing machine, i have a mundane curiosity if you don't mind - since you are so intrigued with superautomatic cars and devices, how it happened that you bought a stick-shift sporty BMW, the driving equivalent of workarea_size_policy=manual, probably one of the 10 manual-shift cars ever sold in USA ? ;)

Sat Apr 23, 03:43:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

i'd bet that you ..

Actually, my plan here is to hopefully not do things like that (talk about Oracle 10g..). For that, goto asktom and ask me about it :)

I was talking about technology in general. For example, I recently (in December 2004) got a new phone. It is my fourth phone ever. I'm not much of a phone gadget guy. Little side story first before I get to my point: Three of us at Oracle were being pitched to by a telco trying to get us to do a deal to get fancy phones for the division with great connectivity packages. Before we started they asked us what phones we currently used. The first guy there pulls out his Trio with the works. It does this, that, syncxml, has his calendar, email, everything. My manager pulls out his AT&T phone with blue tooth and walks near his computer -- it wakes up, gets out the screen saver, unsets his AIM away message, blah blah blah (blue tooth, his mac "recognizes" when he is near and either shuts off access when he is not or turns it back on when he is).

I pull out my 5 year old motorola startek phone (they were cool when they came out) and said "I can make and recieve calls with this". The sales consultant from the telco laughs and says (no kidding) "Hey, the Smithsonian was calling around looking for those to display". Really nice eh.

Anyway, I have a new Motorola v600 tri band gsm phone (for travel). It has so much "stuff" associated with it. Calendar, Instant Messaging, everything.

I find it to be a fairly complex beast to use. The autocompletion of text (which is supposed to make it easier to type) has to be "learned" over time. Getting the speaker phone to work, fairly not intuitive. I can use it to tell what time it is, make a call, receive a call and take a picture (took me forever to figure out how to get the pictures off but hey...). I'd like to see it "easier" somehow. Like Tivo.

As for the BWM, it was a 94 BMW 5 series that I bought in 1997/1998. It had high mileage (like 75k + miles) but was in pristine condition. And -- it was very nicely priced (cost less than the honda accord I traded in). It was roomy, it was a BWM, it was green, it had heated leather seats. That is what I bought it for. That it had a manual stick -- that was an accident. In traffic, I did not like the stick -- on the road, I loved it. 7/8 years ago when I got it -- it was perfect. Over time, it got less so. When I would get into rental cars with better features (those rear view mirrors that dim by themselves -- how cool is that), it was time to upgrade. I wanted roomy, fast enough, and the mileage thing was definitely a closer for me (along with the 10% of the emissions of a regular car, that was big).

Things change over time. I want a vehicle that will drive me to work now. That is what I'm really waiting for.

Sat Apr 23, 04:10:00 PM EDT  

Blogger David Aldridge said....

Prius. Pah.

You need one of theses ... ... 55mpg, 0-60 in nothing flat, use of HOV lanes, and arrive at work with the oxygen and the adrenaline flowing. And maybe some blood. Hey, you just take your chances.

Sat Apr 23, 05:33:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Alberto Dell'Era said....

Sure, technology as a mean to solve real problems and make life easier, not fictious problems invented by commercials and SalesMen ... I agree, that's the true mission of Science incarnated as Technology (not producing cool sneakers that you must buy because otherwise ... you deserves to be exposed next to Ramses' mummy).

After having proved myself such a savvy, rational and pragmatic guy, I cannot absolutely disclose that my next car (an Alfa Romeo 147) is going to have a six-gears shift (manual, of course) to better make use of its 150HPs, an Anti-Slip Regulation for the same reason, Vehicle Dynamic Control to keep it in trajectory ... and a way cool Italian design and style. I absolutely need it - what if a db has problems, and my VPN doesn't work ? I must run to the problem asaps - it's a race against time ;)

Sat Apr 23, 05:51:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Why Star Trek: Enterprise? I am a star trek fan also (loved TNG and Voyager) but given up on Enterprise during the 1st season.

You should try out a series called Stargate SG1 (the episodes from the earlier seasons, which rerun on the SciFi channel, are much better but the current season is decent).

Sat Apr 23, 06:34:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Prius. Pah.

yeahbut -- where would the wife and kids fit?

Why Star Trek: Enterprise?

I stuck through the first year and it grows on you. Never got into the Star Gate series.

Sat Apr 23, 06:48:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Bob B said....

Thanks for answering my question. It was much more interesting and a lot less technical than I guessed it would be.

On the topic of technology ... I ran into a slashdot article about the "Running Man" competition. Hide and seek played with computers, wireless access points, and encrypted messages.

Sat Apr 23, 09:35:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Bill S. said....

The melding of mind and machine - the ultimate in virtual reality and no more death (as long as the DBA's we leave behind do proper backups of course and test them out!).

Want to have nightmares tonight?
Gee, there is a certain specific DBA responsible for the system known as Tom Kyte....or, maybe worse:
picture the melding of a certain specific DBA's mind with a machine!

Gee, I wish you hadn't said that! But on the lighter side, that book sounds fascinating. If you should recall the title, please post in your blog - that sounds like one I'd like to read myself.

Sat Apr 23, 11:30:00 PM EDT  

Blogger David Aldridge said....

Why Star Trek: Enterprise?

I think that I only saw the first episode, and the only scene I remember was some shower/decontamination thing. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about.

Was that quality of programming kept up for the rest of the episodes?

Sun Apr 24, 01:22:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Doug C said....

Few comments - A little over a year ago, my grandfather passed at the age of 98. He was born in 1905. He was a research scientist of some repute and he was still very sharp as he got older. (He taught himself some unix at 94). The family would sometimes fly in from all over for his birthday and it was always remarked at some point that his generation had seen a more rapid pace of change than any generation before or since. People born in 1905 had horse and buggies and kerosene lanterns. Can you imagine starting out that way, seeing the invention of ac power, the radio, telegraphs, telephones, cars, fax machines, computers, aircraft, jet aircraft, radar, cell phones on and on and on.. The list is pretty fierce. I am pretty close to your age so I related to your history from the vinyl seated cars to the present. I remember slipping around on them as well. :-) Will our generation see as equal or an even greater pace of change than that? I don’t know – I’d like to think so – and to pull a theme from an old classic trek show, it would be nice if our social knowledge could increase at the same pace. As to Moore’s actual law, that the complexity of integrated circuits doubles every 18 months - I think if you take it literally, it has slowed down. We’ve had Pentium 4’s for a while now. I’d have to ask an EE to be sure, but I’m pretty certain we are approaching theoretical limits on the width of wires on IC’s and so forth. I’d like to hear from other people if they know. Also, as to having a car drive you to work – everyone might find this link interesting. These folks envision a mass-transportation system with a grid at about 3-mile intervals containing monorails that will allow you to hop your (hybrid) car on it and take you to work at 75mph even in the city. I’m not sure if these people are even close to a working system, and I can’t find anything on their page about the computer system to run and co-ordinate all the cars, which seems to be key to the whole operation, but I thought it was thought provoking.

Sun Apr 24, 02:11:00 AM EDT  

Blogger DaPi said....

Ultimately exponential growth is unmaintainable, whether it's the number of gates on a chip or the number of people on a planet. What is astounding about Moore's Law is that it has remained valid for so long and looks like it has some more mileage in it.

The references to Star Trek made me think of SETI and the Drake Equation:

The most debatable factor is L, the expected life-time of a technological civilisation. The null result from SETI suggests a low value. The Cuban Missile Crisis came close to setting it around 25 years for us. Exhaustion of oil supplies (with the ensuing chaos) and global warming (two not unrelated factors) might set it at a value that is only slightly higher.

" . . . explosive advancement." A nuclear explosion is *only* exponential growth.
The only difference is the time-scale: we have time to control our technological and population explosions. What is lacking is the will. Wanting more and more, we're likely to end up with nothing.

Sun Apr 24, 05:03:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Pete_S said....

For me, the biggest thing has the pervasion of microchips into domestic life. Just auditing the house and ignoring the IT stuff (4 PCs, wifi network etc - gosh even my DSL modem is a small UNIX box!) There are computers in the burglar alarm, microwave, dishwasher, washing machine, oven, heating... the list goes on, am I not even there with the AV stuff - digital video boxes, answering machine. And then there's the car - engine management, diagnostics; when I was a kid cars went to mechanics because they were mechanical.

Working for large IT company, computers are always there - it's what I do! But the big change for me is communications. I go into one my of my company's offices (Boston, London, Sydney, or wherever) pickup the phone, key in my id and that phone is my phone - all my quick dials - it even routes incoming calls to my UK direct dial number to it! And if I am not in the office I just connect my laptop to the internet and plug in a USB thingy and that's my phone too. Now is this an advance?

Sun Apr 24, 05:06:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

I think that I only saw the first episode

At first, I thought Borg's rocked (Voyager)...

But you know, Vulcans aren't that bad either.

Last night they did a play on the original series, the one where Kirk via a transporter accident gets sent to a mirror universe were everyone was "evil" (Spock had a goatee and all, lots of swords and knives). And they've introduced the Defiant into the series as well (time travel thing) - so an original Star Trek type ship is in this evil universe.

T'Pol gets to let her hair down in this one. Part I of II, looking forward to next weekend.

Sun Apr 24, 05:35:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Ultimately exponential growth is unmaintainable

Right now we are starting to level off - even decline in some places. Ultimately the growth must curtail itself.

If you check out Kurzweil's book, his prognosis is that there is no need for bodies ;) That would solve one of the problems.

Sun Apr 24, 05:45:00 AM EDT  

Blogger David Aldridge said....

yeahbut -- where would the wife and kids fit?

Fair point: How about one of these for a traffic clearer? All the family can join in the fun.

the one where Kirk via a transporter accident gets sent to a mirror universe were everyone was "evil" (Spock had a goatee and all, lots of swords and knives).

Wife says I should lose the beard and stick with a goatee. I'll have to tell her about this becaue its always been obvious to me that goatee's are evil. Or maybe that's her point?

Sun Apr 24, 07:51:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Johan Snyman said....

The book you refer to sounds like The Sphere by Michael Crichton

Sun Apr 24, 11:22:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

The book you refer to sounds like The Sphere

No, this takes place entirely above water. They end up flying the ship around.

Sun Apr 24, 11:47:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Lester said....

Tivo is great, but it’s like a religion, when you try to explain it to others, they just get that look. We have had Tivo for 3 years and just got the Humax, Tivo plus the ability to burn DVDs. It’s great because the interface on the burned DVD is just like Tivo AND when you view DVD’s, it uses the Tivo interface.


Wed Apr 27, 08:33:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Steve said....

Never watched any of the SG series, but saw the pilot of Atlantis the other week, and now I'm hooked. SciFi also has a remake of Battlestar Galactica - which is exponentially better than the original.

Sat Apr 30, 12:50:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Never watched any of the SG series

I'll check it out -- looking for a replacement for enterprise :)

Sat Apr 30, 01:00:00 PM EDT  

Blogger DaPi said....

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Tue May 03, 01:58:00 AM EDT  

Blogger DaPi said....

Tue May 03, 01:59:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Girl Next Door (gnd) said....

Do you still watch 24? I was so hooked the first 3 seasons, and then sorta lost interest...
So big on House now!!

Didn't notice your presentation tomorrow at Reston until it was too late! I've been waitlisted! Well, what are the chances that someone will cancel their registration (sigh!)

Tue Mar 17, 10:17:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....


I lost interest in 24 - I don't really watch any series anymore on TV. I keep recording some - but never get around to watching them :)

Tue Mar 17, 10:27:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Girl Next Door (gnd) said....

ya, it seemed like the show literally ran outta ideas...

My registration just got confirmed for tomorrow's event... (it pays to constantly follow-up)
I'll be sure to stop by and say hello :)

Tue Mar 17, 12:28:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Girl Next Door (gnd) said....

well, considering how full the room was today, I didn't get a chance to stop and say hello. I'm sure there will be a next time :)

Wed Mar 18, 04:51:00 PM EDT  


<< Home