.
AI_133px.jpg
ai
Artificial Intelligence
.
biotech
biotech
Biotechnology and Synthetic Biology
.
cryptography
crypto
Cryptography
.
materialscience
nano
Materials Science
.
neuroscience
neuroscience
Neuroscience
.
nuclear
nuclear
Nuclear Technologies
.
robotics
robotics
Robotics
.
space
space
Space
.
Sustainable-Energy-Technologies_133px.jpg
energy
Sustainable Energy Technologies

KEY TAKEAWAYS

•   Moore's law, which for fifty years has predicted rapid increases in semiconductor capabilities at decreasing costs, is now ending, raising profound implications for the future of hardware and software development.

•   Recent research has identified methods that allow innovations in materials, devices, fabrication, and hardware to be added to existing process or systems at low incremental costs. These methods need to be further developed since they will be essential to continue to improve the computing infrastructure we all depend on. 

•   Quantum computing may solve certain specialized problems, but experts debate whether it can ever achieve the rapid, consistent, predictable performance growth that semiconductors have enjoyed.

Icons_card_Semicond.png

Overview

Chips must be designed and then manufactured, calling for two different skill sets. Very few companies perform both design and fabrication (Intel is one). Many companies specialize in design (e.g., Qualcomm, Apple, NVIDIA). Others specialize in chip manufacturing—or fabrication. The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is by far the world’s largest “fab” company. Samsung in South Korea is a distant second, and UMC, also in Taiwan, ranks third. With a large fraction of the world’s chip factories physically in Taiwan, the global supply chain for chips is clearly fragile.

MOORE'S LAW IS ENDING
 

For the past fifty-plus years, the number of transistors on a chip has doubled roughly every two years at similar cost, meaning the computational power of a leading chip can be expected to double every few years. This trend, known as Moore’s law, depends on steady improvements in manufacturing tools and a set of economic conditions that make it financially sensible to invest in the construction of new state-of-the-art facilities that can cost $20 billion. Moore’s law is not a law of physics, but an observed trend that has been so consistent that everyone expects the cost of computing to regularly decrease with time. Unfortunately, Moore’s law has been slowing down, and the end appears to be in sight, raising profound implications for future systems and design. As a result, innovative methods in other areas need to be further developed. Alternatively, improvements in end-user applications will come from better optimization of algorithms or hardware to the application, rather than better scaled hardware. 

QUANTUM COMPUTING
 

The slowing of semiconductor improvements has increased interest in alternative technologies like quantum computing (QC). Quantum computers employ a different way of performing computation from traditional computers, allowing for some tasks to be completed much faster. However, the different framing also requires completely different hardware and approaches to algorithm design. For QC to be successful, it will be necessary to drastically scale the number of qubits—or data units—while decreasing error rates. The best quantum machines today have around fifty qubits and can do about three hundred two-qubit operations between errors. For comparison, conventional computers have billions of bits and can do more than a million billion operations before errors occur. 

How to create a growing market for quantum computers is one of the biggest challenges in the field. As of today, no one has found a commercial problem which a near-term quantum computer can solve that can’t also be solved as effectively on a conventional computer. Given the large initial cost of a quantum computer relative to conventional computing, this situation means that we still don’t have a commercial market for quantum computing. For QC to flourish, it will need a virtuous cycle created by a growing market that funds increasingly difficult technology development. 

Over the Horizon

Moore’s law has enabled us to produce computing systems of amazing power and complexity, but they also require huge and expensive design teams and must be manufactured in fabs costing billions of dollars to construct. As a result, the industry has consolidated. The result is a paradox. Performing the necessary optimizations requires innovative researchers willing to try radical ideas that in the end might not succeed. But how can we find researchers and companies willing to take on these risks if every attempt costs $100 million or takes two years?

A potential avenue of progress calls for making the complexity of the design tasks proportional to the change you are making, rather than the complexity of the resulting system. Imagine how little home remodeling would be done, for example, if every idea for remodeling entailed revision of all the blueprints for the entire house, as though everything had to be redone from scratch. The latter more closely corresponds to the process of state-of-the-art chip design today. The solution involves breaking the system into reusable components, which would decrease design costs. 

The goal is to allow the prototyping of solutions at low cost that build off a common, underlying base platform. Since building a platform is very expensive, for this idea to succeed it is critical to convince some firms which have complete working systems (e.g., Nvidia, Apple, Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm) to participate in the effort. This approach bears substantial similarity to the model of the app store, which provides an open interface while keeping the base system proprietary. The app store model balances open innovation with the profit motives of companies.

REPORT PREVIEW: Semiconductors

Faculty Council Advisor

mark-horowitz_profilephoto.jpg
Mark A. Horowitz
Author
Mark A. Horowitz

Mark A. Horowitz is the Yahoo! Founders Professor in the School of Engineering and professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Stanford University. His research has contributed to early RISC (reduced instruction set computer) microprocessors, multiprocessor designs, and high-speed interfaces, and he currently works to create new agile design methodologies for analog and digital VLSI (very-large-scale integration) circuits. He received his PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford University.

View Bio
mark-horowitz_profilephoto.jpg
Mark A. Horowitz

Mark A. Horowitz is the Yahoo! Founders Professor in the School of Engineering and professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Stanford University. His research has contributed to early RISC (reduced instruction set computer) microprocessors, multiprocessor designs, and high-speed interfaces, and he currently works to create new agile design methodologies for analog and digital VLSI (very-large-scale integration) circuits. He received his PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford University.

Access the Complete Report

Read the complete report.

Explore

Date Range
CONTENT TYPE

Select Content Type

  • News
  • Article
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Events
AUTHORS

Select Author

  • Condoleezza Rice
  • John Taylor
  • Jennifer Widom
  • Amy Zegart
  • Herbert Lin
  • Hon. Jerry McNerney
  • Hon. Robert Gates
  • Hon. Steven Chu
  • Hon. Susan M. Gordon
  • John Hennessy
  • Lloyd B. Minor
  • Mary Meeker
  • Peter Scher
  • Thomas M. Siebel
  • Zhenan Bao
  • Dan Boneh
  • Yi Cui
  • Simone D’Amico
  • Drew Endy
  • Siegfried Glenzer
  • Mark A. Horowitz
  • Fei-Fei Li
  • Allison Okamura
  • Kang Shen
  • Eric Schmidt
FOCUS AREAS

Semiconductors

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Biotechnology Synthetic Biology
  • Sustainable Energy Technologies
  • Cryptography
  • Materials Science
  • Neuroscience
  • Nuclear Technologies
  • Robotics
  • Semiconductors
  • Space
  • Technology Test Page
Date (field_date)
Read More
test
Events
Books
The Stanford Emerging Tech Review | DC Launch

The Hoover Institution and the School of Engineering at Stanford University invite you to the DC launch of the Stanford Emerging Technology Review at the Hoover DC office on Thursday, January 25th, from 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM ET.

January 25, 2024
Read More
Artificial Intelligence
News
Books
Stanford aims to help policy makers prepare for AI, robotics and more

A new project from Stanford University aims to help policymakers get their heads around a range of fast-developing new technologies, from AI and cryptography to robotics and synthetic biology.

December 11, 2023
Read More
Artificial Intelligence
News
Books
Stanford launches emerging-tech project co-led by Hoover Institution’s Condoleezza Rice

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is helping lead a new Stanford University initiative to provide “one-stop shopping” for government, businesses and the public to obtain timely information about new and evolving technologies.

December 08, 2023
Read More
Hoover research fellow Herbert Lin, the director and editor-in-chief of the Stanford Emerging Technology Review explains that advancements in a single field of emerging technology leads to advancements in others.
News
Books
Hoover Institution and School of Engineering launch emerging technology review

The Stanford Emerging Technology Review (SETR), a “one-stop-shopping primer” for policymakers on advancements in 10 key emerging technology areas, launched its first report in November.

December 08, 2023
Read More
SETR_SplashScreen_705px.jpg
News
Books
Introducing the Stanford Emerging Technology Review featuring Condoleezza Rice and Jennifer Widom

Introducing the Stanford Emerging Technology Review, an innovative project and publication dedicated to exploring the breakthroughs and policy implications of cutting-edge technologies that are shaping our societies and economies.In this video, the Review’s…

December 05, 2023 by Condoleezza Rice, Jennifer Widom
Read More
Solar
Article
Books
Yi Cui to lead Sustainability Accelerator; Roland Horne named interim Precourt Institute director

Cui has been leading both the Sustainability Accelerator and the Precourt Institute for Energy since April. With Horne transitioning to interim director of the Precourt Institute, Cui will continue engaging with the accelerator’s efforts to generate…

November 10, 2023 by Yi Cui
Read More
Science
Article
Books
Stanford professors promote bio-literacy through digital education

Drew Endy and Jenn Brophy take a step toward educating the world about bioengineering with a course offered to high school students nationwide.

September 27, 2023 by Drew Endy
Read More
AI Robot
Article
Books
Stanford AI professor Fei-Fei Li says we need more human-centered technology. Still, she had to convince herself to share her own story

A human story. Stanford professor Fei-Fei Li is an AI technologist known for her work to make the fast-moving technology more human, a crusade she launched via a widely-read 2018 New York Times op-ed. When she started to write a book, she focused on that work—…

November 15, 2023 by Fei-Fei Li
Read More
Robot
Article
Books
AI is at an inflection point, Fei-Fei Li says

The renowned AI researcher shares her thoughts on the hard problems that lie ahead for the field.

November 14, 2023 by Fei-Fei Li
Read More
Artificial Intelligence
Article
Books
Fei-Fei Li Started an AI Revolution by Seeing Like an Algorithm

Researcher Fei-Fei Li’s ImageNet project provided the feedstock for the deep learning boom that brought the world ChatGPT and other world-changing AI systems.

November 10, 2023 by Fei-Fei Li

You May Also Like

.
Semiconductor Day at the Hoover Institution
Experts, Diplomats, and Industry Representatives Discuss US Semiconductor Future after Passage of CHIPS Act
.
Artificial Intelligence
Stanford aims to help policy makers prepare for AI, robotics and more
.
Artificial Intelligence
Stanford launches emerging-tech project co-led by Hoover Institution’s Condoleezza Rice
.
Hoover research fellow Herbert Lin, the director and editor-in-chief of the Stanford Emerging Technology Review explains that advancements in a single field of emerging technology leads to advancements in others.
Hoover Institution and School of Engineering launch emerging technology review
.
Drone
Technology Applications By Policy Area
.
Globe
Cross-Cutting Themes
.
Stanford
Executive Summary
.
Binary
Foreword
overlay image