According to Moore’s Law, the number of transistors on a computer chip will double about every two years. Most informed people know that researchers are quickly closing in on the physical limitations of the silicon computer chip. This leaves most of us in one of two categories: either we swear by Moore’s Law and expect new technology to immediately replace the old, or we assume Moore’s Law is temporary. Naturally, most of us forget we’re discussing a law of averages.

Even if technology failed to produce results abiding by Moore’s Law for a decade, it could still remain intact as long as the number of transistors on a computer chip eventually caught up. Still, most assume that natural objects can only be made so small, and that eventually Moore’s Law will crumble. But that doesn’t mean the day is close at hand. Here are five technologies with the potential to replace the silicon computer chip, and soon:

1. Graphene

We’ll just let the hairy-armed man take care of the graphene explanation in this short video:

2. Nanotubes

Carbon nanotubes could potentially reduce transistor size in keeping with Moore’s Law for some time to come. Obviously shaped like tubes and made of carbon, they measure on the nanometer scale. Researchers predict that carbon nanotubes could replace the silicon computer chip by reducing the size of microchips for at least another decade.

3. Nanophotonics

Which would win in a race: light or electrons? The science of nanophotonics is all about harnessing the speed of light to process information much faster than the silicon computer chip. Sure, placing more transistors on a computer chip is still an issue, but at least we’ll have super-fast computers in the meantime.

4. Quantum computing

Lawrence Krauss will provide you with as short of an explanation on the subject as you’re likely to find:

5. Neurosynaptic computing

Now listen to our hypnotic Indian friend, who will put you to sleep:

The Limitations of the Silicon Computer Chip

Okay, so size is obviously an issue. Making computers insanely fast, however, shouldn’t be.

Some futurists–Ray Kurzweil, notably–believe that Moore’s Law will endure. Those who say it won’t don’t believe we can replace the silicon computer chip with new technology. The naysayers ignore the fact that Kurzweil uses mathematical patterns such as Moore’s Law to predict what future technology will do, and when. In fact, he’s made his fortune using these predictions to predict what kind of technology will exist, not what kind of technology does exist. And so most of the people who ignore predictions and patterns like these do so because they’re missing the point. Of course, getting the point still doesn’t mean the patterns will remain accurate.

What do you believe? Are futurist Ray Kurzweil’s predictions true? Will one of the above technologies soon replace the silicon computer chip in order to indefinitely extend Moore’s Law? Or do you believe that, like everything in life, technology has its limits?


About Author

Jeff is a self-proclaimed pragmatic futurist; that is, he has high hopes for absurd life-altering technologies which sound too good to be true, and probably are. Although he writes on a variety of subjects, his real passion is for technological innovation and the people who make it happen. By day, he enjoys fuzzy bunnies, kittens, puppies, roller coasters and a sardonic written word or two. By night, he's busy running MMR, replaying a random Final Fantasy game, or pretending to be Batman. He currently resides in Upstate NY.