Stanford engineering professor Jonathan Koomey points out that computing efficiency – the number of computations completed per kilowatt-hour of electricity used – has doubled about every 18 months ever since the 1940’s. It’s analogous to Moore’s law, which says that computing performance – the number of computations performed per second – doubles every 18 months.
Extrapolating both of these trends out a few years, Koomey foresees computing devices that will use so little power they can scavenge what they need from ambient energy in the environment and run continuously for decades. Pointing the way toward this future, physicists have built a transistor from a single phosphorous atom.
So let’s imagine a future some decades from now in which computing devices are a billion times faster, a billion times smaller, a billion times cheaper, and a billion times more energy efficient compared to the best computers today. What does that future look like?
P.S. Jonathan Koomey gave this talk on March 15, 2012. Or in other words, 17 months ago – which means that processors should now be just about twice as fast and twice as efficient as they were when he spoke.