The idea for a completely digital movie originated almost 40 years ago. It wasn’t until more than 20 years later that this dream was realized with Toy Story. The creators and heads of Pixar knew that their dream was possible they just had to wait for technology to catch up to them. Using Moore’s law they knew that it was only a matter of time and fortunately they were right. They were able to predict when it would be feasible to make this movie 5 years in advance, which enabled them to make smart business decisions.
Moore’s law, according to a cofounder of Pixar, Alvy Ray Smith, can be defined as, “Everything good about computers gets an order of magnitude better every five years”. In other words a computer’s processor complexity doubles every 18 months. So if we know how fast technology is going to progress why do we bother with the intervening steps? Why don’t we just create a processor that’s 4 times as complex in 3 years? The reason is that inventors can’t fathom what step 2 is before they get to step 1. Every progression of technology requires new thought processes that didn’t previously exist; “it’s not simply more, it’s different”(Smith). It’s similar to the idea of evolution of living things in that small alterations eventually lead to massive changes but we couldn’t have skipped a step.
Innovators forge ahead in this manner, implementing each step, measuring its success, and than gaining the courage to move ahead to the next level. Moore’s Law told Smith and the other creators of Pixar that they needed to build up their hardware instead of making movies because financially it made more sense. Smith has come up with the explanation that an,” exponential improvement of a given technology — Moore’s Law in the case of computer chip technology — measures the ultimate speed at which a large group of creative humans can proceed to improve a technology, under competition, when there’s no physical barrier to its improvement and when the technology must pay its own way”. So what will the next big thing be? 40 years ago, when Smith came up with the idea for a completely digital movie, it seemed impossible. Whatever crazy idea anyone of us has could become reality in 20 years, we just have to wait and see. The next big thing is coming and it’s absolutely exhilarating to think that we can’t even fathom what it is yet.
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