Moore’s Law and Exponential Growth

 

What is Moore’s Law, what does exponential growth look like, and how do these concepts relate to the field of digital marketing? Join us as we discuss three fascinating topics with potentially profound implications for the future of your business.

The modern computer would be impossible without transistors. These tiny components allow devices to process inputs into outputs, by permitting or blocking electrical flow. In short, they’re the part of your computer that’s doing all the computing.

Now, quiz time. How many transistors do you think there are in your laptop’s processor chip? 1,000? 100,000? 1 million?

If you own a mid-to-high-range computer or smartphone that was built at some point over the last few years, you can expect to find anywhere from one to two billion transistors in its CPU. Well, you won’t actually find them – each one is only a few dozen silicon atoms wide!

Microchips have come an almost incomprehensibly long way to reach this point, from the Intel 4004 processor’s 2,300 transistors in 1973, through the WDC 65C02 in 1981 (11,500 transistors) and the Intel Pentium (1993, 3.1 million). Of course, that’s all chicken feed next to the SPARC M7, the Oracle mega-processor which posted a new record transistor count of 10,000,000,000 in 2015.

Who could have predicted this astonishing level of growth?

Gordon E. Moore, that’s who. It was in 1965 that this tech visionary famously predicted that the number of transistors in computer chips could double roughly once every two years. Moore went on to co-found the computer company Intel, and his prediction – which came to be known as Moore’s Law – held remarkably true, until 2013 when the annual rate of CPU transistor-count increase started to gradually ease off.

Computer scientists are now finding it tougher to cram more transistors onto processors, for the simple reason that they are now operating quite literally on an atomic level. By the year 2013 transistor nodes had reached around 50 silicon atoms in width (22 nanometres), and by now this figure has reduced further still. Before long we’ll have transistor nodes so narrow that electrons may be able to leak across them through the process known as quantum tunnelling. This phenomenon would cause computational errors, effectively spelling the death of Moore’s Law in its most literal interpretation.

But Moore’s theory is about far more than transistors alone. In the 50+ years since its conception, Moore’s Law has become a byword and a benchmark for technological advancement. Whatever the challenges that digital innovators may currently be facing, Moore’s Law tells us that human ingenuity teamed with cutting edge tech can and will deliver progress at an exponential rate.

What is exponential growth?

If you’re struggling to understand exponential growth, let the humble squirrel be your guide.
Until the late Victorian period, the UK’s grey squirrel population was non-existent. Our parks and forests abounded with our native red squirrels, but not the American grey.

That all changed in the 1870s, when wealthy landowners started importing grey squirrels to live in their country estates. These fashionable, furry garden features thrived in their new habitat, out-competing their auburn-furred British cousins, and in under 150 years our grey squirrel population had grown from a small number of trail-blazing immigrants to approximately 2.5 million.

Let’s say for argument’s sake that these squirrels have always reproduced and died at a roughly similar rate. As the total population grows, so too does the numerical value of population increase in each generation.

For example, if the squirrel population doubles with each generation and we started with just two squirrels, then there would have been four squirrels in the second generation – an increase of two. Then, between the second and third generation, four squirrels would have grown to eight – an increase of four, and so on. This simple model demonstrates how exponential growth works – it’s growth that can be expressed by an equation.

All sorts of things take place at an exponential rate, including the transmission of viruses, nuclear chain reactions, the positive feedback you’ll sometimes hear emanating from the speakers at your local open mic night, and the increase in transistor count described by Moore’s law. It should come as no surprise that elements of digital marketing can also be described exponentially.

How do Moore’s Law and exponential growth apply to digital marketing?

Moore’s Law shows us that technological advancement – like population growth – can take place at an exponential rate. This idea can be valuable to digital marketers for a number of reasons.

  1. Understanding the pace of change – it’s easy to think of future generations of consumer tech as some far-off destination – a problem for tomorrow’s digital marketers. But by understanding Moore’s Law and exponential growth, we can see that the next big technological step change is likely to come around in a shorter period of time than it took for the last to take place. Moore’s Law is not directly analogous with the pace of change in digital marketing, but the two are clearly linked.
  2. Plan for exponential growth in your own business – imagine if your business could grow on an exponential curve! You can give yourself the best possible chance of achieving a situation of this sort by building exponential growth strategy into the fibre of your business. This may sound a bit involved, but it can actually be achieved through implementing a few common-sense measures designed to keep the growth-driving aspects of your business in equal proportion with the business’ size. Create and continuously implement a ratio for man-hours spent on acquiring business to man-hours spent on billable tasks; identify the assets or characteristics that are driving your company’s growth and build them into your processes.
  3. Don’t get too comfortable – it seems that one of the golden rules of working in the digital sector is to specialise. Businesses are expected to mirror digital workers by being “T-shaped” – broadly skilled but with one deep specialism that defines the company’s niche. Not only does being specialised help businesses to stand out from their competitors, it also helps them to gain higher rankings in relevant Google searches. We all need our own niche, but bearing Moore’s Law in mind, we should also ensure that our specialisms have sufficient longevity to support our business goals. If you specialise narrowly in a time-sensitive area, there’s an elevated chance that you’ll find yourself out of work within a few years. As such, digital businesses should be looking to develop specialisms that stand the test of time. And if your specialism is geared for your short-term advantage, just don’t get too comfortable in your niche.
  4. Target exponential effects in your digital marketing work – on an altogether different note, it’s also worth considering the fact that exponential effects can be a valuable goal in a digital marketer’s work, especially where viral content is concerned. The dream web content item keeps on increasing in effectiveness (i.e. lead generation, increasing brand visibility, etc.) according to a multi-faceted equation, involving organic reach created by shares, the knock-on SEO effects of these initial views, and so on. Consider how a content item’s value can ramp up over time and identify the different factors – the components of the equation – which can help the content to maintain a steady rate of growth in value. A long-termist mindset towards each item of content you produce can turn acorns into oaks.

How can digital marketers plan for exponentially advancing tech?

Now we’ve talked a lot about the need for digital marketers to prime themselves for advances in the tech/digital field, let’s go into detail on how exactly that’s done. The best approach to future-proofing your business will of course depend upon your customers, audiences and areas of specialism, but whatever your individual characteristics, the following strategies will almost certainly provide you with a strong foundation to build upon:

Build a culture of ongoing learning

Last week we wrote an in-depth feature on how to build a culture of ongoing learning at your organisation. Promoting learning in the workplace is a great idea for lots of reasons. For one thing it will help you get the most out of your staff, and for another it may enhance your organisation’s reputation. These are great benefits both, but bearing in mind the significance of Moore’s Law and exponential growth, we’d be inclined to say that one of the greatest advantages of a culture of ongoing learning would lie in its power to help a team adapt to change.

Workplace learning provides countless opportunities to prepare for technological change. If a new technology is on the horizon, have one or more team members master it, whether independently or through an official qualification; brief staff to report on upcoming digital marketing developments; and trumpet the achievements of team members who bring new innovations successfully to bear upon your business.

Work flexibly

The Darwinian doctrine of “adapt to survive” is every bit as pertinent to digital businesses as it is to squirrels and the like. The pace of technological change places us all in an evolve-or-die situation, and as such, it’s crucial that we configure our teams for maximum adaptability.
We’re big advocates of one working framework for teams that’s particularly well suited to catering for new tech: the Agile methodology. Agile is a system for working that was created by developers a few decades back and is now enjoying unprecedented popularity in all sorts of workplaces.

There are lots of aspects of Agile which make it perfect for instilling adaptability within a team. For example, it encourages open collaboration across departments and specialist areas; it orders your work into bite-sized sprints, just a week or two in length; and it focuses the team on the activities which are currently generating the best revenue. You can read more on the subject in our complete introduction to agile.

Not every team will require a complete overhaul of its working framework, but we all stand to improve our future prospects by taking measures to make ourselves more adaptable. Weed out over-reliance on certain technologies, encourage open-mindedness and work with adaptable people to equip your team with the flexibility it will almost certainly require in the not-too-distant future.
 

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