One of my favorite activities in the summer is meeting up with friends, family and neighbors over a barbeque or fish fry. Generally, I can be counted on to provide my favorite treat, bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapeño peppers (known as poppers, and seriously, they’re life-changing).
My neighbor Blake has a different favorite activity that he enjoys all year round: acquiring the latest electronic gadgets. This past weekend, over a great meal (supplemented, of course, with bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers), he told a group of us about his latest electronic security addition, the Ring Bell. While we were all suitably impressed (and a bit overwhelmed), he patiently and proudly showed us how it worked from his black-matte-finish iPhone 7 Plus.
When he was done with the demo, Blake accepted a cold beer from Sage, who teased him about needing to have the latest toys. To our surprise, Blake’s pragmatic answer gave us all something to chew on.
“I choose to buy the latest electronics and learn how to use them because it’s a slippery slope to being overwhelmed and giving up on technology,” he told us. “How many of you are helping your parents or grandparents keep up in their household?”
After the affirmative murmurs, he added, “I have a lot of years left to contribute to the world, and I work hard staying up to date with the latest phone or software to give me that edge.”
Tobias held up his smartphone. “Our smartphones are outdated in two years. Our laptops are old within three years. So how long will it take for the skills we learn today to be outdated?”
Jessie, who works in a Fortune 500 human resources department, jumped in. “I can answer that!” he said. “Experts — like that futurist, David Houle — say that an undergraduate degree has a shelf life of five years. I know we put less weight on the degree than we do the most recent position when we hire someone.”
“Too bad we can’t tie our student loans to that so they would expire!” Sage joked. “But you have the right attitude, Blake. How about giving us some lessons, so we aren’t left behind?”
It was only later that I realized pretty much everything we’d been talking about could attributed to Moore’s Law.
Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel, foresaw the speed of change when he wrote a paper, “Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits.” The paper was published as an article in Electronics Magazine in 1965, and his hypothesis became known as Moore’s Law — the idea that the number of components per integrated circuit would double every year, and decrease in size at the same rate. A decade later he revised the timing to every two years (although it’s often misquoted as 18 months).
Moore’s Law is not a scientific fact; it’s a scientific projection. And though the law has been declared dead many times, it’s an undeniable fact that technological advances significantly narrow the lifespan of electronics, software and skills needed to navigate in a technical society.
Now, how do Moore’s Law, smartphones, and bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers connect? Well, poppers are food, and our discussion that night gave me much food for thought. And while I was chewing over our words in my mind (and the leftover poppers in my mouth), I thought of something my dad would say.
“If you’re standing still, then you’re falling behind.” Hard to think of an area where that saying is more appropriate than technology.
I know where I want to be, and it’s not falling behind. How about you?