8 Fundamental Laws of Technology and Computing
Certain principles govern every facet of existence. Whether it be the laws of physics, nature, mathematics, or evolution, each field offers an array of explanations for various phenomena.
It is worth noting that these laws, unlike governmental policies, do not necessarily constrain individuals. Rather, they can be defined as observable patterns that persist in specific settings.
Similarly, the realm of technology and cyberspace operates according to its own set of laws and patterns. Some of these may be amusing, while others may carry more weight, and still, others may present an ironic mixture of both.
Moore’s Law was first proposed in 1965 by Gordon Moore, former CEO of Intel and co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor. This law suggests that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit would double each year. However, it should be noted that this prediction was based more on observation than empirical evidence.
Interestingly, Moore’s Law held true for approximately a decade before being revised in 1975. The updated version proposed that the number of transistors would double every two years instead of one. Remarkably, this prediction still holds true half a century later.
Nevertheless, there are physical limitations in terms of matter, time, and space that could soon render Moore’s Law irrelevant unless new innovations are developed. Such innovations may require the abandonment of material chips or the circumvention of circuits to conserve space.
Mark Kryder was a firm believer that the areal storage density of magnetic disks would double every thirteen months. His predictions, which became popularized as “Kryder’s Law” in 2005, were highly optimistic.
Kryder envisioned a future in which a 2.5-inch disk drive could store up to 40 terabytes of data and cost a mere $40 by the year 2020. His projections gave rise to the term “Kryder’s rate” to describe the rate of growth in disk storage.
Unfortunately, Kryder’s Law has become outdated in many industries. Although overall storage capacity has continued to grow, Kryder’s predictions have failed to materialize, and Kryder’s rate has significantly decreased leading up to and including 2020.
Metcalfe’s Law posits that the value of a network is directly proportional to the square of its members. This concept, developed by Robert Metcalfe, is not based solely on technological advancements in IT but rather on the value of networks themselves.
While Metcalfe’s Law was originally proposed in the context of telecommunications, it holds true for all networks. For example, social media platforms such as Reddit and Quora would be useless if they had only one user.
Consider, for instance, the fact that we likely only joined Facebook because our schoolmates were on it. Similarly, LinkedIn would be of little value to job seekers and recruiters if it had no users. In essence, if you were the only person in the world using a mobile phone, it would not serve its intended purpose.
In 1995, Swiss computer scientist Niklaus Wirth provided a sobering perspective on the state of software. He observed that software was slowing down at a faster rate than hardware was getting faster.
In other words, despite advancements in hardware and increased storage, computers have not become faster due to the increasing complexity of software. This complexity has resulted in more options, increased security against evolving cyber threats, and the need to repair a greater number of bugs.
Despite these benefits, the trade-off is that software is becoming slower, making it challenging to keep up with the pace of hardware advancements.
Edward A. Murphy Jr., an American aerospace engineer, has left us with a plethora of laws that reflect his pessimistic outlook on life. It seems as though he was either a very unlucky man or an anxious ball of nerves, or perhaps both.
Let’s take a look at a few of his laws:
- “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”
- “It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.”
- “Technology is dominated by those who manage what they do not understand.”
- “If you can think of four ways that something can go wrong, it will go wrong in a fifth way.”
- “A failure will not appear till a unit has passed final inspection.”
- “The degree of technical competence is inversely proportional to the level of management.”
- “Everything takes longer than you think.”
- “Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.”
- “The light at the end of the tunnel is only the light of an oncoming train.”
It’s unclear what Murphy’s deal was, but his insights are relatable for those who cannot afford to take risks. Speaking of risks, let’s move on to our next law.
Cunningham’s advice may seem counterintuitive to those who value accuracy and knowledge, but it highlights an interesting phenomenon on the internet. When someone posts a wrong answer or makes a mistake, others are often quick to correct them and offer the right information.
This can be a valuable learning experience, as it allows individuals to learn from their mistakes and gain a better understanding of the topic at hand. It can also help break the ice in a discussion and encourage others to participate.
However, it’s important to note that intentionally posting incorrect information is not a productive or respectful approach to online communication. It’s always best to strive for accuracy and truthfulness, while also being open to learning from others and acknowledging when we may be wrong.
Fitt’s law is a valuable tool for experts in the fields of graphical user interface and user experience. According to this law, the time required for a pointer to travel from its initial position to a target is directly proportional to both the distance to the target and the target’s size.
While distance is an easily measured quantity, the size of the target plays a crucial role in determining the likelihood of error. For instance, if an advertisement features a minuscule “close” button, it is highly probable that my larger thumb will inadvertently contact another part of the screen while attempting to close it.
Correcting or mitigating such errors can significantly prolong the time required to select the intended target. That is precisely why larger buttons and icons are considered more user-friendly.
Whenever an appliance is described as being “smart”, it’s vulnerable.
— @mikko (@mikko) December 12, 2016
In 2016, a tweet gave rise to an invaluable yet straightforward realization for everyday users. This insight, now commonly referred to as Hypponen’s Law, states that if a technology is smart, then it is hackable. In other words, any intelligent technology that we use is potentially vulnerable to being exploited by hackers.
This principle holds true for a broad range of technologies, including but not limited to the Internet of Things, smartphones, computers, laptops, networking systems, homes, cars, security systems, cleaning robots, and numerous others beyond our collective imagining.
Final Thoughts on Internet Laws
While there exist many more laws that we could discuss, we must acknowledge the limitations of time and space. As we have seen, some laws carry a touch of humor, while others offer profound insights into the realm of computing and the internet. However, the longevity of these laws varies greatly, and many will inevitably become obsolete in the coming years. As such, researchers will need to introduce new principles to anticipate the future of computing and the internet.
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