But there is also something mystical about Moore's Law: It is the metronome of modern life. If you had sat down in 1965 and tried to predict the future, no metric you could have used -- demography, migration patterns, politics, philosophy, sociology, fads and fashions, even scientific research -- would have been as useful as Moore's Law. That's why most of the predictions were so wrong: no atomic powered cars and personal helicopters, but cell phones, PCs and the Internet -- transformative technologies we could never have anticipated.
Just as mystical is the power of Moore's Law as a performance standard. Andy Grove once said that the ultimate goal of the electronics revolution was to convert every part of human life, where possible, from analog to digital. By that he meant that whenever you could find something that could be managed by digital systems -- not an automobile but an engine computer, not a doctor but patient diagnostic and monitoring equipment, not a chromosome but gene mapping -- it was like strapping that industry to a comet. Almost overnight the rate of change literally became exponential, improvements asymptotic, and miracles began to occur.
For the last 30 years we have watched as Moore's Law has touched one industry or profession after another, supercharging each in turn. It began, of course, with semiconductors, being the purest manifestation of the law. But it quickly jumped to video games, personal computers, analytical devices, medicine, the military, automotive, aerospace, telecommunications, consumer devices and, most recently, biotech.
Look at any field of human endeavor, and if it has been touched by Moore's Law, it has undergone a revolution in the last few decades -- and the degree to which it has been transformed is likely in direct proportion to how much of that endeavor can be digitized. For example, just consider what happened to the telephone industry when it went digital, or to genetic research with the arrival of bioinformatics. I remember the electricity that shot through an industry conference a few years ago when a speaker put up the familiar curved chart and announced that the biotech industry had now jumped aboard Moore's Law.
Frankly, looking back over a quarter century as a technology journalist, I can say without a second thought that I have basically had just two jobs: reporting on the biannual performance jumps of industries within the domain of Moore's Law and identifying those industries that are about to join its regime. Meanwhile, what is the story of every great venture capitalist or entrepreneur -- and every great new fortune -- of the last three decades: spotting industries about to emerge from, or be governed by, Moore's Law. That's where growth is always the fastest, competition the fiercest, and the pay-offs the greatest.