tion in parallel computing, architectures, and power to sustain growth in computer performance and enjoy the next level of benefits to society.
Information technology (IT) has transformed how we work and live—and has the potential to continue to do so. IT helps to bring distant people together, coordinate disaster response, enhance economic productivity, enable new medical diagnoses and treatments, add new efficiencies to our economy, improve weather prediction and climate modeling, broaden educational access, strengthen national defense, advance science, and produce and deliver content for education and entertainment.
Those transformations have been made possible by sustained improvements in the performance of computers. We have been living in a world where the cost of information processing has been decreasing exponentially year after year. The term Moore’s law, which originally referred to an empirical observation about the most economically favorable rate for industry to increase the number of transistors on a chip, has come to be associated, at least popularly, with the expectation that microprocessors will become faster, that communication bandwidth will increase, that storage will become less expensive, and, more broadly, that computers will become faster. Most notably, the performance of individual computer processors increased on the order of 10,000 times over the last 2 decades of the 20th century without substantial increases in cost or power consumption.
Although some might say that they do not want or need a faster computer, computer users as well as the computer industry have in reality become dependent on the continuation of that performance growth. U.S. leadership in IT depends in no small part on taking advantage of the leading edge of computing performance. The IT industry annually generates a trillion dollars of revenue and has even larger indirect effects throughout society. This huge economic engine depends on a sustained demand for IT products and services; use of these products and services in turn fuels demand for constantly improving performance. More broadly, virtually every sector of society—manufacturing, financial services, education, science, government, the military, entertainment, and so on—has become dependent on continued growth in computing performance to drive industrial productivity, increase efficiency, and enable innovation. The performance achievements have driven an implicit, pervasive expectation that future IT advances will occur as an inevitable continuation of the stunning advances that IT has experienced over the last half-century.