J Farmer, John Gonzales, Béla Nagy, Jessika Trancik

Paper #: 10-11-030

Moore’s Law has created a popular perception of exponential progress in information technology. But is the progress of IT really exponential? In this paper we examine long time series of data documenting progress in information technology gathered by Koh and Magee (2006). We analyze six different historical trends of progress for several technologies grouped into the following three functional tasks: information storage, information transportation (bandwidth), and information transformation (speed of computation). Five of the six datasets extend back to the nineteenth century. We perform statistical analyses and show that in all six cases one can reject the exponential hypothesis at statistically significant levels. In contrast, one cannot reject the hypothesis of superexponential growth with decreasing doubling times. This raises questions about whether past trends in the improvement of information technology are sustainable.