- Wright's Law: A Better Predictor of Technological Progress than Moore's Law
- Too Many Choices for the Future? Consumers Want Fewer "Flavors"
- Counterterrorism Efforts "Target" Boston’s Subways
- News from World Future Society
Moore's law, which says that number of transistors you can fit onto an integrated circuit doubles every 18 months, has been the benchmark measurement for technical progress in electronics for decades. The doubling of transistors on a chip translates to a doubling of computing power and so--it was believed-- Moore's law was the reason why people in 2007 could carry a computer in their pocket, the Apple iPhone, that was four hundred times more powerful than the first Apple computer that debuted in 1976 (as measured by Hertz).
But because Moore's law applies only to electronics, it can't be used to forecast technological progress in other areas, or even in areas of computing that don't involve transistors, such as in quantum computing.
Researchers from the Santa Fe Institute now argue that a theory proposed by Theodore Wright in 1936, called Wright's law, is actually a better reflection of technological progress than is Moore's law. In their working paper, "Statistical Basis for Predicting Technological Progress," they detail how they looked at technological progress rates from 62 different technologies including chemical compound manufacture, mechanical engineering, etc., and found key similarities.
"Moore's law says that costs come down no matter what at an exponential rate. Wright's law says that costs come down as a function of cumulative production. It could be production is going up because cost is going down," Santa Fe Institute lecturer Doyne Farmer told Futurist Update.
More importantly, Wright's law can be applied to a much wider variety of engineering areas, not just transistors. That will give technological forecasters a new way to measure and predict progress and cost for everything from airplane manufacturing (its original use) to the costs of building better photovoltaic panels.
"It means that if investors or the government are willing to stimulate production, then we can bring the cost down faster. In the case of global warming, for instance, I think that a massive stimulus program has the potential to really bring the arrival date for having solar energy beat coal a lot sooner," said Farmer.
He and his colleagues are expanding their working paper into more expansive study that further details the relationship between costs and the rate of progress. "We're trying to make nice, probabilistic forecasts for where solar will be with and without stimulus, what's the distribution of times that will happen with business as usual or a scenario," says Farmer. They plan to submit their final work to Nature next month.
Source: Doyne Farmer (interview), The Santa Fe Institute. "Statistical Basis for Predicting Technological Progress" (PDF) is available from the Santa Fe Institute.
Thanks to David Wood (@dw2) for the tip!
A choice of 33 flavors of ice cream tonight may be highly desirable, but most people don’t want to sort through 33 types of annuity options for their retirement decades from now. Psychological distance from a decision outcome tends to determine the number of options that consumers wish to deal with, according to Joseph K. Goodman and Selin A. Malkoc, both assistant professors of marketing at Washington University in St. Louis.
"The lure of assortment may not be as universal as previously thought. Consumers’ preferences for large assortments can decrease due to a key psychological factor—psychological distance," the authors write in a paper to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
In retirement planning, for instance, we typically prefer to focus on the end goal—target dates and income, choice of residence, or whether to volunteer part time. Consumers needing to make a decision about an annuity plan may actually prefer fewer choices, the researchers found. This preference could help inform retailers’ strategies.
"In product categories where psychological distance is automatically evoked, it might not be necessary for retailers to offer a large and overwhelming number of options," the authors conclude. "Consumers may even be attracted to those sellers offering a smaller and simpler assortment of options."
Goodman and Malkoc's work echoes a famous 2001 study by Sheena Iyengar and Mark Leeper of Columbia University titled "When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing?" Iyengar and Leeper set up table outside of California grocery store and offered some passersby six flavors of jam; others they offered 24 flavors. When there were 24 options, only 3% of the customers purchased anything. When the number of options was a more manageable six, the purchase rate was 30%. Moral? if you're making your customers select from too many options they aren't going to select as well.
Sources: Washington University in St. Louis
The study "Choosing for the Here and Now vs. There and Later: The Moderating Role of Psychological Distance on Assortment Size Preference," is available online and scheduled to appear in the December 2012 print issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.
Download the Iyengar and Leeper paper: "When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing?" here.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has chosen the Boston subway system as a real-life testing ground to evaluate several experimental models of biological agent-detection sensors. Scientists from the Science and Technology Directorate will spray subway tunnels during the off hours with quantities of dead Bacillus subtilis, a bacterial strain that is common in soil and plants and is not hazardous to humans. The researchers will then deploy the sensors to see if they can detect the bacteria’s presence.
This Detect-to-Protect (D2P) Bio Detection project will run from September 2012 until February 2013, with oversight from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, as well as state and local public-health officials. Flir Inc., Northrop Grumman, Menon and Associates, and Qinetiq North America are the systems’ manufacturers. If the systems work as their designers intend, then they will be able to detect a microbial strain within minutes, allowing DHS authorities to mobilize fast public responses in the event of a biological attack.
Partnership with SAGE: Beginning in 2013, World Future Review, the journal of the Society’s Professional Membership program, will join an esteemed roster of science journals published by SAGE Publications Inc.
WFR’s editorial content will continue to be managed solely by the Society, which has lined up an international board of peer reviewers. SAGE will contribute its vast publishing and marketing experience and resources, greatly facilitating the review and editing process, enhancing the reader experience, and improving research tools.
The Society is working on additional benefits for the Professional Membership program and is pleased to announce that the current dues structure is unaffected.
School Leaders Look to THE FUTURIST: More than a thousand school superintendants across the United States will regularly receive THE FUTURIST magazine, thanks to an agreement with National School Development Council. NSDC Secretary/Treasurer Jack Sullivan recently informed WFS of the Council’s plan to add THE FUTURIST magazine to the resources it makes available to its regional members. NSDC serves the leadership of school study and development councils across the United States. These regional, state, and county councils work with local school systems to improve educators’ skills and knowledge and to provide professional development assistance and resources. Learn more about NSDC.
Plans for WorldFuture 2013 Gear Up: Yes, we know the 2012 conference just ended, but we’re futurists! And we’re already drawing from the energy and ideas in Toronto to plan an even better conference experience for Chicago next July. Among the ideas in development for WorldFuture 2013: Exploring the Next Horizon are:
- Poster Session, including a cash-bar reception with the poster presenters.
- 22nd Century Lecture Series by leading futurists, focusing on the six major conference tracks.
- Video Competition for students to explore the forecasts and scenarios in THE FUTURIST’s special report, "The 22nd Century at First Light: Envisioning Life in the Year 2100."
Stay tuned for details! If you have an idea for a special event or activity for WorldFuture 2013 and would like to volunteer your time to help develop it, please contact conference administrator Sarah Warner at Society headquarters. Learn more about WorldFuture 2013
Speakers at last year's conference received coverage from i09, The Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, the Epoch Times, CBC, and CTV Canada.