Christophe Lecuyer

Senior Fellow
Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France
Project Title: 
The History of Moore's Law
Project Abstract: 

Over the last fifty years, the complexity of microchips has increased exponentially. Microchips that had a few transistors in the early 1960s now have several billions of them. At the same time, the cost of microchips and their components has plummeted, falling to less than a billionth of a dollar per transistor. This powerful technological and economic trend, also known as Moore's Law, enabled the rise of the internet and the emergence of the information economy. Moore's Law also became an important cultural icon and the center of new ideologies such as "technological singularity." What were the social and economic forces that led to the exponential growth in microchip complexity and performance? What were the innovations in manufacturing processes and design techniques that made Moore's Law possible? How did different groups construct new ideologies around it? This project looks for answers to these questions by examining the social, economic, and technological dynamics behind Moore's Law. It investigates the materials and process innovations that enabled the exponential increase in microchip complexity. Another locus of research is the complex of computer-aided techniques and methodologies that permitted the design of more and more complex microchips. Finally, this project examines the meanings that different social groups gave to Moore's Law, and the ideologies that have been centered around it. My project on Moore's Law will advance our knowledge of a major technological and economic trajectory and illuminate fundamental changes in the fabric of contemporary society – the rise of the digital world.