There was a very perceptive article in the current issue of the Economist which argued, basically, that Moore’s Law is in sight of breaking down. The result, though, is maybe not what you might think. Progress may not necessarily just get slower; it is more likely to be much, much more unpredictable.
The reasons, according to the Economist are because these days there is so much more that is important than just the single chip in a single computer, among them the role of software, the cloud and new, specialised architectures optimised for particular tasks.
I think we can see some of this unpredictability unfolding in front of our eyes as Google’s Go-playing computer AlphaGo has beaten Lee Sedol, ranked number 4 in the world, in the first two of their best-of-five series. Go is seen as a special challenge to AI because it is very much more complex than chess and a “brute force” approach won’t work.
The really interesting thing about this match is that it was generally thought we were 10 years away from building a computer which could win at Go. AlphaGo surprised the world back in October last year when it won against Fan Hui who is ranked 633rd in the world. What has taken Lee Sedol by surprise is how much better the program has become since – we was apparently quite certain he could beat it.
Hold on to your seats – we could be in for some really quite startling surprises in the coming months and years.