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I posed a question recently to our team of technology lawyers – what’s the name of the law that says that the power of computers will double every two years whilst the cost will halve?
Quite a few blank faces. Boyle’s law? No, that’s to do with gas pressure. Charles’s law? No, you’re still thinking about thermodynamics. Well I’ll tell you, it’s Moore’s law.
I suppose it’s a bit unreasonable to expect a team of lawyers to know about scientific laws, but Moore’s law is definitely one that is useful to think about when it comes to trying to make predictions about technological advances (even if it is more of an observation rather than a binding set of rules). So, we are looking for improvements in technology but for which we expect to pay less than before.
It’s almost exactly 35 years since Sir Clive Sinclair launched his electrically assisted pedal cycle, the Sinclair C5. Fortunately, it didn’t catch on. For those who can’t remember, it was too slow, too low, had a limited range and was frankly quite dangerous. But the concept of an electric vehicle as an environmentally friendly alternative to the petrol engine, well that looks set to continue. With increased battery range and reduced cost, the roads around Cambridge will see more electric cars in 2020, all trying to find an unoccupied charging point.
As for gadgets and gizmos, I predict that 2020 will be the year when the latest technology becomes cool and trendy, rather than nerdy. Maybe we have already reached that point. We recently welcomed Alexa into our home (after resisting her charms for the last year or so), and you know what, she’s actually rather clever.……and useful as well (“shall we order pizza tonight?”). Or maybe I should say ‘smart’. This year it’s going to be all about smart technology – your smart phone, television, speaker, watch, plug, light……. Have I missed anything out?
Of course, the way in which we pay for our new technology is also changing. Digital cash on smart watches will increasingly be accepted by retailers. Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and litecoin (other cryptocurrencies are available!) are going to remain popular for trading and investment, but there will still be large scale, large value scams which will stunt the growth of that popularity. Last year we had the scam involving the ‘Cryptoqueen’ and who’s to say that this year we won’t have a ‘Cryptoking’?
But it is particularly in the area of AI or artificial intelligence where we are going to see real world, practical advances in products, systems and services that rely on the power of algorithms. Driverless or self-driving cars will become less cars of the future, and more of a reality on our roads as the large car manufacturers continue to develop their autonomous car technology. If that’s not for you, then how about your own robot to do the washing or the shopping, or maybe put on the latest headset and play for a while in a virtual reality world?
The advances in technology that we will hear about in 2020 will all involve a recognition of our human needs and desires, and result in products and services which will satisfy (some may say exploit) those needs and desires. Our love of technology will undoubtedly continue as our technological dreams become ever more advanced…..and in the process will probably outpace Gordon Moore’s observation about the rate of technological change.
That’s enough now about Moore’s law and predictions for the future. I need to get back to some real law!
This article was first published in Business Weekly.