Global Tech Supply Chains Are as Complex as a Circuit Board

Brendan O’Connor, Inkstick:

But not forever. Moore’s Law is not a natural law, but a prediction based on production capacities, capital flows, and the availability of highly exploitable labor. There are limits: political and economic as well as physical. “At some point, the laws of physics will make it impossible to shrink transistors further,” [Chris] Miller warns. “Even before then, it could become too costly to manufacture them.” Already it is proving more difficult to keep costs down: the extreme ultraviolet lithography machines needed to print the smallest and most advanced chips cost more than $100 million apiece. (And only one company in the world makes them.) And yet, Miller notes, startups focused on designing chips for artificial intelligence and other highly complex and specialized logic chips have raised billions of dollars in funding, while the big tech firms like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Alibaba are pouring funds into their own chip design arms. “There’s clearly no deficit of innovation,” he writes. The question, Miller argues, isn’t whether Moore’s Law has hit its limit, “but whether we’ve reached a peak in the amount of computing power a chip can cost-effectively produce. Many thousands of engineers and many billions of dollars are betting not.” In other words, they are betting that if they throw enough money at the problem, they’ll be the ones to break through the limit — and release untold profits and productivity on the other side.

This one is long, but well worth your time.