Four Digital Laws

Four lawmakers: Gordon Moore, Mark Kryder, Jacob Nielsen and Michio Kaku

Four lawmakers: Gordon Moore, Mark Kryder, Jacob Nielsen and Michio Kaku

I found this post on the Business Insider blog fascinating, mainly because I only knew about two of the four laws that Greg Satell of DigitalTonto lists (and I’m no mean nerd myself!). I am reposting part of it here for the benefit of my readers, but I strongly encourage you to read the whole article which you can find here.


4 Digital Laws

When William Gibson said, “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed,” he meant that the seeds of the future are sown in the present.  While there is no telling the exact composition of the fruit that those seeds will bear, we can expect the stalks to grow according to laws already apparent.

The information economy has been around long enough for us to have identified four digital laws that drive the growth and direction of technology:

Moore’s Law:  Back in the 80’s and 90’s, when computers first landed on our desktops, we were mostly concerned with processing power, because we wanted to be sure that our hardware would be capable of running the software that made computers useful.

Today, however, most of us pay little attention to processing speeds because we’re confident that whatever device we buy will be fast enough.  That’s because of Moore’s law, a principle first identified by Intel cofounder Gordon Moore in 1965 which states that the power of our chips doubles about every 18 months.

Kryder’s Law:  When Steve Jobs first returned to Apple, he revamped the product line and then went searching for the next big thing.  An avid music fan, he was disappointed with the primitive MP3 devices on the market and envisioned a new product that would allow him to carry around 1000 songs in his pocket.

In a matter of months, his team identified a supplier which could deliver drives that were both small enough and powerful enough to make good on his vision.  The iPod was born and Apple was on its way to becoming the most valuable company on the planet.

Of course, 1000 songs is no big deal anymore.  Today’s iPods carry 40,000 and you can buy a drive that can play 1000 full length movies for a few hundred dollars, less than the price of those original iPods.  This is thanks to Kryder’s law, which doubles storage about every 12 months, even faster than Moore’s law increases processing power.

Nielsen’s Law:  Even after we stopped worrying about the speed of our computers and our hard drives became big enough that we didn’t need to clean out our e-mail archives every month, we still had trouble accessing content because Internet connections were so slow.  Now with 4G mobile connections, we scarcely have to worry about it.

This is thanks to Nielsen’s law, which observes that effective bandwidth doubles every 21 months.  That’s’s quite a bit slower than Moore’s law and Kryder’s law, which is why bandwidth has historically been such a limiting factor, but at current speeds we can do almost everything we want to and 5G is expected around 2020.

Kaku’s Caveman Law:  Now that we have eradicated most technical limits to everyday use, the most important law to pay attention to is what Michio Kaku calls the “caveman law”, which can be stated as follows:

Whenever there is a conflict between modern technology and the desires or our primitive ancestors, these primitive desires win each time.

It is this last law, riding the wave of the previous three, that will drive the next decade of technology.  Our devices will become not only vastly more powerful, but also more natural and eventually disappear altogether.  Effective computing will become less dependent on expertise and more a function of desire.


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