SolarCross wrote:I just read this rather interesting article, Is Science Slowing Down?, which tests the rather commonsensical view that science is moving forward ever faster and finds it wanting.
The above quote is the angle of attack that the proposition is taking; that apparent exponential growth in scientific output is actually a game of diminishing returns masked by even greater exponential growth in inputs.
One interesting implication that I draw from it is that, excepting the AI wild card, the human population must maintain exponential growth in order to sustain continued scientific and technological development.
I currently work in the semiconductor industry. I agree and disagree with what's being said here. I would argue that science is just getting more complicated, more so than our ability to be productive is going down.
First, the progress of all scientific discovery is NOT entirely dependent on our ability to place more transistors in a given square area of silicon. Yes, the fact that it's become harder to do so will slow things down, but not to a crawl, at least not yet...
The reason it takes more research/work to get more transistors is simply because we are starting to hit what the industry calls "The wall". That is, we are getting close to the physical limit that we can shrink down silicon transistors. Current generation transistors are at the scale of 7nm right now. It's believed "the wall" will happen somewhere around 1nm. The generation after 7nm is 4nm. We might get another generation between 4nm and 1nm. Nonetheless, the silicon industry believes there is about 2-3 more generations left before we hit the wall. This will take about another 10-15 years or so to get to that point.
That said, there are massive improvements outside of die shrinking to be had. Some include micro-architecture improvements, die stacking, straining silicon, etc. etc. All of this can combat the fact that we aren't able to shrink transistors further. Last, we there are other forms of non-silicon based computing that could replace all this anyway.
Thus, I think computer processing power will continue to increase rapidly. It will take more researchers and engineers to do it. In that sense, sure, we can say the industry is less productive. Though, a more accurate way to put it is that the complexity of technology is increasing faster than we can simplify it.
Transistor shrinking was just the cheapest and easiest thing to do to get more performance from computer chips. There are many more ways to get more performance out of them that do not involve shrinking.