To put those trends into context, we should look further back in history. Kurzweil and others argue that the performance improvements during the recent microprocessor or Moore’s law era follow a longer historical trend.1 In particular, in Kurzweil’s estimates of 20th-century computer-performance improvements, he finds that over the whole century, computer performance improved exponentially and that exponential improvement was, if anything, accelerating. Although his exact numbers are open to debate, it is clear that computer performance grew exponentially over the entirety of the 20th century.
What will the rest of the 21st century bring? Optimists predict that Kurzweil’s trend will continue. Pessimists worry that single-threaded architectures and complementary metal oxide semiconductor technology are reaching their limits, that multithreaded programming has not been broadly successful, and that alternative technologies are still insufficient. Our job, as encouraged in the rest of this report, is to prove the optimists correct.
1The Law of Accelerating Returns, by Ray Kurzweil, http://www.kurzweilai.net/articles/art0134.html?printable=1.