Evolution and Development of the Universe
Proposed Workshop 2011 and Conference 2012 Theme:
The Physics of Performance Curves: The Nature and Limits of Functional Performance Improvement in Technology Innovation
Technology performance curves, also known as learning curves or experience curves, have been studied by a small group of scholars since the 1930's. Given their accelerating impact on the technology environment, they are among the most important topics of technology innovation, strategy, and policy. Yet in spite of their importance we do not have a good understanding of the physical basis of these curves, and many open questions remain. The only open Performance Curve Database, at the Santa Fe Institute, remains unfunded. Fortunately, performance curve scholarship is on the rise, and the opportunity for high-impact collaboration and publication in this area has never been better.
Topics of Investigation:
- What models do we have for the physical basis of technology and complexity performance curves?
- Can we develop unifying theories for any classes (physical, efficiency, computational, informational) of performance curves today?
- What explains the "smoothness" and long-term predictability we find in many technology performance curves (e.g., Moore's 'law') in our performance curve databases?
- Are such curves representative of undiscovered physical law or constraint, of economic or psychological expectations, or some other set of physical processes?
- Why are scale reduction processes persistently exponential in performance improvement, and which physical processes are candidates for continued scale reduction?
- Why are technology product outliers (significantly off the curve) so often market failures, and can this observation lead to better R&D timing, strategy, and policy?
- How do we differentiate non-persistently exponential performance curves (market-limited, etc.) from persistently exponential (scale reduction, FERD, etc.) curves?
- How do non-computational (physical process, efficiency) performance curves differ from computational (computing, memory, communication) performance curves?
- How do computer hardware and software performance curves differ, and why does hardware exhibit consistently better long-term exponential performance improvement?
- When does technology substitution (creating a composite technology performance curve) occur in any technology platform? Under what circumstances can we predict it?
- When does exponential performance end in any performance curve? Under what circumstances can we predict it?
- What explains "state switches" (transitions to steeper or flatter exponential modes) in several technology performance curves?
- What physical processes differentiate superexponential, exponential, logistic, life cycle, and other performance curves?
- What do exponential and superexponential performance and efficiency curves imply for the future of technological innovation and sustainability?
We are seeking functional and technology performance curve scholars, technology substitution scholars, complexity transition and periodization scholars, acceleration scholars, technological evolution and development scholars, technical productivity and world system modelers, and their critics. Scholars who approach performance curve study from materials science, thermodynamic, informational-computational, evolutionary, developmental, economic, competitive, cognitive, historic, social science, systems theoretic and other perspectives are welcomed. We will seek to compare and critique a variety of performance curves data sets and models, and consider first-order implications of these models for technology innovation, strategy, sustainability, and policy, underscoring the great technical, political, economic, and social value of better scholarship and science in this area.
Workshop 2011 Location and Date: APS March Meeting, Dallas, Texas, March 22-24.
We will be hosting a Workshop on the Physics of Performance Curves, March 22-24, 11am-2:15pm on Tues, Wed, and Thurs, at the APS March Meeting, March 21-25 in Dallas, Texas. Return here soon for further details, or email John Smart to be placed on the invite list.
Conference 2012 Location and Date: Europe (Country and Date TBD).
If you have an interest in working on the 2011 Workshop or 2012 Conference development committee, in sponsoring either event, or providing other assistance, please contact Clément Vidal.