Renowned physicist Michio Kaku predicts Moore's Law will gradually cease to exist by around 2020 or soon afterward and claims that this will cause an economic crisis. Chip makers will eventually hit a brick wall and be unable to further shrink chips because transistors will be so small that quantum theory takes over and electrons leak out of the wire.
Kaku notes that a replacement technology will have to be found, otherwise Silicon Valley may slowly turn into the next rust belt.
Kaku sets out the crunch moment as being the point at which ultraviolet light can no longer tuned to etch ever smaller circuits on to silicon wafers, which on current trends will kick in less than a decade from now. From that moment on, Moore’s Law will gradually diminish, and the effects will not only be technological but economic.
He argues that the computing industries depend on a conveyor belt of new products which roughly double the power of each new product from the equivalent a year or two earlier. With no Moore’s Law to propel this rise in computing power, this upgrade culture will grind to a halt causing consumer interest to wane.
“Transistors will be so small that quantum theory or atomic physics takes over and electrons leak out of the wires. At that point, according to the laws of physics, the quantum theory takes over,” says Kaku, invoking one of science’s most feared laws, The Heisenberg uncertainty principle.
His point is stark. Once the most basic unit of computing work – the electron with a measurable behaviour inside a wire – becomes uncertain, as it surely will at these scales, the silicon age is over. Any smaller and science has no way of knowing where an electron is in order to put it to work in a transistor.