This is the first post in a multi-part series. New posts will appear every Friday. Feedback is welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Moore’s Law describes how quickly computer technology evolves, and I do not know how many lawyers, policymakers, and law students are familiar with it. I would guess that most are not. This is probably because the rate of change of computer chips seems obscure, irrelevant to law and policy, and, anyway, a little bit made-up. How can it possibly be that the speed with which people can improve computer technology — that is, how much faster your laptop is now than it was five years ago — can obey anything like a “law?” And even if it does, how can that possibly affect how we think about energy policy?
This series of posts is an attempt to answer both of those questions. This first post is an introduction to Moore’s Law and other related laws of technological change. My description will be at a high-level of generality. That’s because I’m not interested in the details of integrated circuits, and, even if I were, the details don’t matter. What matters will be this: it turns out that some technologies change really, really quickly; have behaved like this for a half-century or for more; and don’t appear to be slowing down. In fact, this set of technologies improves faster than any other technologies ever have in the history of humanity. Sadly, though, not all technologies change so quickly — and green technologies are among this slower set. In subsequent posts in this series, I will explore why policymakers need to realize this when they think about energy policy, and why President Obama does not appear to have sufficiently grappled with this reality in setting his new “clean energy” goal.